UAE's mental health helpline receives more than 700 calls during pandemic

Volunteers handled more than 12,000 calls from elderly citizens as part of another initiative

August 11, 2014- Provided photo of the helpline at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children in Dubai UAE
Courtesy DFWAC

The UAE’s mental health helpline has received more than 700 calls since it was set up.

From May until the end of August, staff manning the hotline have offered help and advice to 740 people across the country.

More than 30 specialists including counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists lent an ear to those in need, along with 38 trained volunteers.

Run by the UAE National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing (NPHW), in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, it was set up to help people cope with stress, fear and anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The health pandemic reinforces the need for greater attention to mental health

Releasing the data on World Mental Health Day, Moza Al Suwaidi, undersecretary at the ministry, said the health pandemic “reinforced the need for greater attention to mental health”.

She said it was up to both governments and private sector organisations to promote psychosocial initiatives, such as the national helpline, to support the community during turbulent times.

Those in need can call the toll-free support line on 800-4673 or connect on WhatsApp using the same number to speak directly with specialists in both Arabic and English.

During the first half of the year when home quarantine and lockdown measures disrupted everyday life, the ministry also supported 282 families across the UAE with a number of services, including counselling.

Due to social distancing rules, 84 per cent of the interactions were carried out remotely, by phone and email, it said.

Another initiative launched during the pandemic focused on the mental health and well-being of elderly citizens across all seven Emirates.

The ‘We Are Your Family’ programme allowed specialists and volunteers to connect with senior members of the community via phone and video call on a daily basis, where necessary.

With many home visits halted to help curb the spread of the virus, 63 volunteers from the ministry handled a total of 12,789 calls with the elderly from January until August.

The UAE has been working for years to promote the development  of more mental health services for the community. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted this need even more.

Since the start of the year, the ministry launched a number of initiatives to support its residents, particularly families, senior citizens and people with special needs.

Here are a snapshot of some of the initiatives and the progress so far.

National mental health campaign: ‘Do Not Worry’

60 physicians, experts and specialists in psychology and social support

16 closed support sessions for vulnerable groups

2.5 million views of mental health support content online

Free national helpline

740 calls from UAE nationals and residents

32 specialists and 38 volunteers providing support

Call 8004673 or Whatsapp 800HOPE

'Taaluf' family counselling initiative

4 free interactive family counselling channels

282 family counselling sessions

84% of consultations over phone or email

‘We Are Your Family’ phone campaign

12,789 phone calls with senior citizens across country

3 communication channels by phone, video, or direct home visits

63 volunteers conducting calls

Remote rehabilitation for people with special needs

1,808 people participated in the Covid-19 repercussions survey

8,000 awareness bracelets made to support vulnerable groups during pandemic

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