Major boost in mental health services

 04 Dec 2017 - 10:47

Major boost in mental health services
Dr Suhaila Ghuloum, Conference chair, who is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Mental Health Services at HMC. Pic: Kammutty VP / The Peninsula

By Fazeena Saleem | The Peninsula

Mental health services in the country has seen a major boost, with the implementation of National Mental Health Strategy 2013–2018, which aims to build a comprehensive and integrated mental health system, says a senior official. 

As result of the strategy, mental health services at the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) have seen a 50 percent increase. The services have been expanded to the community as well as awareness about the importance of mental wellbeing has increased, said Iain Tulley, Chief Executive, Mental Health Services at HMC. 

Iain Tulley, Chief Executive, Mental Health Services at HMC


The National Mental Health Strategy – ‘Changing Minds, Changing Lives’ was launched in December 2013 with a vision to provide the best possible mental health services, while changing attitudes towards mental illness. “Since the National Mental Health Strategy was launched, we have seen huge developments in services and I hope in the next four to five years will see even greater achievements,” Tulley told The Peninsula, on the sidelines of sixth Qatar International Mental Health Conference on Saturday. 

“We have seen quite an increase in the services, last year our own services at HMC have grown by 50 percent, so we recruit new doctors, new physiologists, new therapists, which means we can give a wide range of treatment to people. We also have a community mental health team, where doctors, nurses and physiologists are based in the communities. We have outpatient clinics based in the community, so people don’t have to come to the hospital. Also new services for children and adolescents have been introduced as part of the strategy,” he said. 

The sixth Qatar International Mental Health Conference was held between November 30 and December 2, at the Hilton, Doha. It brought together international and local experts in mental health and discussed the latest and best practices to further improve services in Qatar. 

“We have specialists from different fields thinking about how we could support people to handle mental health problems. We are also talking about stigma and ways to make it easier for people to access mental health services. The conference is also focusing about people undergo mental health problems due to chronic illnesses like cancer and diabetes,” said Tulley. “As an outcome of the conference, more people will talk about mental health problems and talk about physiological wellbeing, seek treatment and reduce the stigma around mental illness,” he added. 

This year’s conference also included several new features including pre-conference workshops, exhibit of creations by inpatients and activities to increase awareness about mental health. 

“We are always improving and enhancing quality of the conference. We get feedback from attendees, review it and implement during the following year. This year four workshops were held before the conference, we have poster presentations, an exhibit of handcrafts made by inpatients , a local Qatari artist held workshops with patients and helped them do artworks reflecting their feelings. Also two films were screened as part of creating awareness, one on our services and another by young university students talking about their aspirations and understanding of mental health,” said Dr Suhaila Ghuloum, Conference chair, who is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Mental Health Services at HMC. 

According to Dr Ghuloum, mental illness is common across the world and in Qatar it has been estimated that one in five people experience a mental health issue at some point life. Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety are common and the severity vary from minor to serious problems. 

“Prevalence of mental ailment in Qatar is similar to other countries. To an extent it’s a public health issue that needs to be addressed by policy makers. Everywhere in the world there are efforts, and especially in Qatar there are several ongoing efforts and always seeking to expand it. The conference is part of such efforts to help us think how we can promote mental wellbeing and create awareness,” she said. 

The preconference workshops included ‘Medical ethics for mental health workers,’ and ‘Learning disabilities, ADHD, and intellectual disability: Best practices in assessment and diagnosis.’ Ameera Alkharaz, psychiatrist, HMC said, “The pre conference workshops were very useful for us for as physicians to be updated and trained. It will help us in providing best care to patients. It also gave us the opportunity to meet international experts and learn from their experience and expertise.”

The three day conference discussed several topics including on global progress in the fight against stigma, distress and cancer, intimate partner violence and case studies such as the maternal depression screening project in Al Wakra hospital was also shared.