Thousands seeking online mental support during pandemic

More than 2,000 psychological sessions and 5,600 remote consultations held since April

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 23 SEPTEMBER 2020. Street art project in place at Al Serkal Avenue to promote mental wellness during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Nick Webster. Section: National.
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Remote counselling sessions for mental health concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic topped 5,600, UAE health officials said ahead of World Mental Health Day.

Psychological counselling via tele-psychiatry services, where experts contact patients remotely, reached about 5,672 consultations and treatment sessions from April to October.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention said protecting the mental health of residents had become a key priority as the pandemic impacted all corners of society.

"During Covid-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Health continued to provide community mental health services, such as the designation of home care and support teams for chronic cases in order to prevent relapse," a ministry spokesman said.

The ministry added it was committed to providing mental health services for all during ongoing challenges face by the population.

Ahead of the World Mental Health Day - which falls on October 10, the ministry reminded the public of the different ways to get access to psychological support.

This year the day will be globally celebrated under the theme: Mental Health for All – Greater Investment – Greater Access. Everyone, everywhere.

The ministry said it had provided online psychological services during the outbreak of Covid-19, so social distancing does not stand in the way of anyone receiving help.

According to the recent annual Arab Youth Survey, 38 per cent of young people in the region knew someone struggling with anxiety or depression, up seven per cent from last year.

A majority (56 per cent) of Arab youth said it was difficult to access quality medical care for mental health issues in their country.

Young Palestinians (85 per cent), Yemenis (80 per cent), and Syrians (77 per cent) were most likely to experience difficulties accessing quality mental health care.

Almost half (48 per cent) said seeking medical care for mental health issues was viewed negatively by most people in their country.

In the UAE, the ministry also activated a virtual visits program for inpatients to enable them to meet their families.

"With more than 2,112 psychological counselling since April this year, the psychological counselling helpline service 'talk, we do hear you' has provided counselling and psychological support to the public and those infected with or suspected of Covid-19, as well as the frontline health workers," said Dr Youssif Al Serkal, director general of the Emirates Health Services Corporation.

A “24/7” mental health service was also launched for those impacted by Covid-19, those with addiction issues and to people quarantined in official facilities.

A remote psychiatry services via phone and social media were provided alongside the launch of virtual psychiatric clinics,

Services promoting mental well-being were made available via the smart mobile phone app, "Wareed".