Abu Dhabi clinics to ask about mental health during routine check-ups

Health chiefs look at earlier intervention for stress and depression

Doctors said an informal discussion about mental well-being during routine check-ups if often the best way to get patients to open up. EPA
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Patients who visit publicly run clinics in Abu Dhabi are to be asked about their mental well-being.

Health chiefs want to spot signs of stress and depression at a much earlier stage.

The process will start with a basic checklist, with patients referred to a nurse, doctor, or specialist as needed.

They appreciate the confidentiality. No one can tell whether they are coming in for a psychiatric problem or a physical illness
Dr Dana Al Marzooqi

“When we identify them early at primary care in a mild to moderate range, we can intervene promptly and stop the disorder from becoming advanced," Dr Nahida Ahmed, chairwoman of the Mental Health Task Force, told the Abu Dhabi Integrated Mental Health Conference at the weekend.

About 100 medics have been trained to assess and diagnose mental health issues and 450 medical professionals have been trained in suicide prevention, she said.

Nurses will evaluate a patient's mental health and fill out a form that includes other information such as blood pressure, vitals, allergies or any other health problems, among other things.

A preliminary assessment by the nurse will be able to give the doctor an idea of the support that is needed.

Patients 65 years and older will also be screened for dementia.

Dr Dana Al Marzooqi, a family medicine doctor in Abu Dhabi, estimated that almost half her patients have spoken to her about an issue related to their mental health.

Many avoid asking for a referral to a specialist, but feel comfortable telling a general practitioner in a routine check-up, she said.

“They appreciate the confidentiality," Dr Al Marzooqi said.

“No one can tell whether they are coming in for a psychiatric problem or a physical illness.”

She said most of her patients were suffering from adjustment problems after having had Covid-19, which was at times followed by depression and anxiety.

The World Health Organisation estimates that one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Updated: January 23, 2023, 4:43 AM