DUBAI // Depression among labourers and blue-collar workers is becoming increasingly common as they face alienation, loneliness and burden of financial obligations to families thousands of miles away.
Mental health professionals who work in labour accommodation said they were seeing more workers in need of help but whose limited insurance provision put professional help out of reach.
Dr Mohammed Tahir, director of the American Wellness Centre in Dubai Healthcare City, who carries out voluntary work, said no official data was available about the extent of the problem in the labour camps.
“I’ve found a large number of them suffering from depression and anxiety,” said Dr Tahir.
“Depression is not a metaphysical thing with clear symptoms. You cannot see it, but you can feel it deeply.
“That is why awareness about the disease is very important.
“Depression is not a body ache, which can go with one painkiller. Hence, we need to talk to these workers who have no idea with what issue they are suffering.”
Humayun Aslam, a department manager in a company that employs 100 people, mainly security guards, housekeeping workers and office assistants, said depression was common, especially among staff from rural India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“Most have never left their close-knit families until they move to Dubai,” said Mr Aslam.
“Suddenly they are in a new environment and have no idea how to settle down. Then they are stuck between family expectations and new work challenges.
“Sadly, mental health has never been a priority for many companies here.”
He said employers should do better by their workers. “There should be a facility of counselling and awareness,” he said.
“Blue-collar workers need regular counselling, especially those who are new to the place. For a depressed worker on a mechanical, electric and plumbing project in the harsh summer weather, such accidents can be fatal.”
Dr Tahir said the cost of healthcare also played a role in fighting mental illness.
“Workers’ insurance cards do not cover their mental health problems,” he said.
“Hence, these poor souls cannot afford a psychiatrist, even if they were to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
“Insurance companies and employers should include even basic mental health cover.