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55pc of patients in UAE ‘deny mental illness’

Dubai, June 23, 2009

A recently concluded mental health conference in Dubai revealed that up to 55 per cent of patients with mental illnesses in the UAE deny that they are ill.

About 75 per cent of the cases were linked to depression and anxiety, it said.

The conference, organised by AstraZeneca, a leading pharmaceutical company, also revealed that the average patient’s spend on mental illness treatment exceeds Dh20,000 ($5,400) per annum. It emphasised that poor compliance leads to failed medical treatment and drug-resistant conditions.

The conference, attended by patients, doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and members of the public, said that stigma was the first reason that prevented patients from seeking diagnosis and treatment.

It also urged people who feel the symptoms of mental illness to see a doctor, adding that while there is inadequate health insurance coverage of mental illnesses in the UAE, the treatment fees and medicines are supported by the government in local hospitals where it is free for locals and almost negligible for expatriates.

“There are only 180 specialist psychiatrists working in the UAE,” said Dr Bahjat Balbous, specialist psychiatrist, Al Amal Hospital, Dubai.

“Only 10 per cent of them are doctors know how to use hypnosis in treating patients for critical cases. Global percentages for schizophrenia are 1 per cent, and the UAE is not far away from this percentage.”

Dr Khalid Shirazy, medical and regulatory manager, AstraZeneca Gulf added: “The major issues that face mental illness disease in the UAE includes how well patients are on drug compliance and how well a patient follows the instructions for taking the medication.”

Dr Shirazy said: “We must raise awareness of the several mental and physiological illnesses among the community. With all the pressures and the fast pace of life that the Gulf community is being subjected to, no one is immune from these illness.'

The existing strategies used for treating mental illness are still limited, in particular in the Arab world, the conference pointed out.

Dr Balbous added: “The lack of understanding by patients about the chronicity of mental illness and the need to take the medication as well as the stigma attached mental illness results in late diagnosis. This puts on us all the responsibility to put extra efforts in fighting mental illness diseases.”

A UK expatriate patient talked about his personal experience and how compliance of treatment had produced good results and helped him complete his education and pursue career growth.

Praising the expatriate patient speaking out at the conference, Dr Shirazy added that addressing public events could motivate others facing similar challenges to come out in the open.

“Having a mental illness doesn’t mean that someone is violent or dangerous This can lead to feelings of anger, frustration, shame and low self-esteem as well as discrimination at work, school and in other areas of the patients life which will lead that he will hide his mental illness or illness denial or treatment refusal,” Dr Shirazy added.

Dr Balbous said: “Stigma is a real barrier to cure people who have a mental illness. It is by definition a negative judgment based on a personal trait. It was once a common perception that having a mental illness is dangerous. It is something we need to eliminate from the patients mind and the surrounding mind as well.”

The conference urged the outside world to treat a mentally ill people with understanding and support. We shouldn’t say that someone is bipolar rather that he has a bipolar disorder, Dr Balbous argued.

“While the government is helping a lot, we need to increase the number of non profit agencies and programs support people who have mental health conditions,” the conference pointed out.

Dr Mona Issa Jakka, specialist psychiatrist, Obeid Allah Hospital, RAK sai


Tags: Dubai | Conference | AstraZeneca | Mental Illness |

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