Mental Health Act needed in the UAE



ABU DHABI // The UAE should pass a mental health act and treatment for psychological disorders should be covered by health insurance, doctors say.

Dr Yousef Allaban, medical director at American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, said the country would benefit from legislation similar to the Mental Health Act in the UK, which is a code of practice to protect those with mental disorders.

“A mental health act is long overdue,” Dr Allaban said.

There was also a lack of resources and research, while all insurance plans should include mental health, he added.

“The fact that insurance companies do not cover mental health is a huge problem,” Dr Allaban said.

Jared Alden, a psychotherapist at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, agreed.

While some schemes may offer mental-health cover, it was ad hoc rather than a uniform rule, said Mr Alden.

More awareness about mental health was still needed, even among the medical community, said Dr Allaban.

“Many doctors don’t know what the biological basis for a psychological problem is or when to refer a patient to a psychiatrist,” he said. “For example, it is a known fact that 35 to 50 per cent of people who have diabetes suffer from depression at some point.

“If one looks at the numbers in this part of the world, it is seen that only a fraction of these people receive treatment.”

Other barriers to treating mental health also needed addressing, he said.

“There are problems at the regulatory level too,” Dr Allaban said. “Psychologists are classified as clinical psychologists and there are no categories for a neuropsychologist, child psychologist or education psychologist.

“So when people apply there are no categories or classifications.

“The medical community needs to be made aware of the importance of mental health. If doctors need to attend at least a certain number of workshops or conferences on mental health they will take psychological health care and problems seriously.

“Also, a couple of months of training on mental health should be made part of residency programmes so that people know how to deal with these problems.

“Investing in research on mental health will also help to create awareness about this.”

ARizvi2@thenational.ae

jbell@thenational.ae

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