Qatar has made great strides in ensuring that mental health services are easily accessible through a number of initiatives and programmes, an official of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said.
“Qatar has really moved immensely over the last few years in this regard, and with the plans that we have, we hope to see further developments and make it easier for people to seek help,” said National Health Strategy Lead of the MoPH’s Mental Health and Wellbeing, Iain Francis Tulley, who is also the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)’s Mental Health Service chief executive.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the recent opening of *Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You exhibition by renowned Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ).
Citing the MoPH’s National Mental Health help plan, Tulley said that the country witnessed further improvements in its mental health services, allowing people to seek help anonymously and confidentially and “a way that perhaps they couldn’t do before”.
He noted that in conducting regular attitude surveys to understand what public attitudes are to mental health, they have seen huge improvements in terms of people’s awareness and willingness to seek help if they feel the need.
Tulley said that citizens and residents can reach mental health professionals without giving their names or health card number (unless they decided to seek medical treatment) via the helpline 16000.
As part of the service, he said they also launched a virtual women service for problems such as post-natal depression, and “perhaps people who have had domestic abuse or some form of trauma”, among other issues, in addition to opening a new women’s in-patient service.
“We have the redevelopment of our current hospital to ensure that we provide much greater privacy and dignity to people who need to be admitted to the hospital, and we will continue to open and develop our community services so we provide services to where people live,” he said, adding that these programmes aim to “improve access, reduce stigma, and integrate care so physical and mental health are look at in the same way”.
“People are prepared to seek help in a way they didn’t before … the need has always been there, but what we do is to create the opportunity for people to seek help,” Tulley said.
He noted that the MoPH has been running a campaign aimed at raising public awareness on the importance of mental health and psychological well-being, which shares its goals with Rist’s exhibition.
Tulley lauded the *Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You exhibition, saying that “it is a fantastic metaphor in terms of helping people to forget the stigma and enter an experience that allows people to become much more mindful about life”.
“It’s such a normal setting; it’s not a clinical place, it’s not a hospital, it’s not somewhere that people perhaps would feel shameful to go to, and the reach of this exhibition in terms of the message that we want to convey that mental health is something that we should all think about looking after our mind, looking after our psychological wellbeing is essential if we want to be healthy,” he pointed out, adding: “It’s a big opportunity for people to be much more open about how they feel and to seek help if they ever feel the need.”
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