The Dubai Health Authority’s smart clinic marked today World Mental Health Day, which is observed annually on the 10th of October.
Information was disseminated via the Authority’s Twitter page (DHA_Dubai) Instagram account and through Periscope.
In line with this year’s theme, "dignity in mental health" – DHA physicians discussed the importance of raising awareness on what can be done to ensure people with mental health conditions live free of stigma.
Dr Afaf Al Hashemi, family physician at DHA’s Nad Al Sheba primary health care centre, said: “Depression affects an estimated 350 million people around the world, and more women are affected than men. It is one of the main causes of disability worldwide. In the Arab world, it is estimated that 17.7 per cent of the population suffers from depression and this figure is only the tip of the iceberg because not everyone with mental health problems come forward and seek treatment due to the stigma associated with mental health diseases.
“This is a global issue and its one the biggest challenges mental healthcare professionals face because stigma leads to delayed treatment, deterioration of the condition, self-worthlessness, self-stigma, low confidence, low self-esteem, withdrawal and social isolation.
“In the UAE, an increase in awareness over the years has resulted in lower levels of stigma associated with the disease, however, we still have a long way to go because at the end of the day it is our aim as healthcare professionals to have a society free from stigma that treats every person with mental health disorders as an individual.”
Al Hashemi said that depressive episodes can be categorized as mild, moderate or severe and treatments are available to tackle all kinds of depression.
Dr Shamsa Al Suwaidi, family physician at DHA’s Al Badaa primary healthcare centre said that people should be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. “The normal ups and downs of life mean that everyone feels sad from time-to-time. But if emptiness has taken hold of your life and won't go away, you may have depression. Depression makes it tough to function and carry out day-to-day activities. Understanding the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment of depression is the first step to overcoming the problem.”
Al Suwaidi said the signs of depression include feeling hopeless and helpless, loss of interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy, constant tiredness, change in sleep and weight, lack of concentration, negative thoughts, more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive behaviour etc.
The stress associated with modern lifestyle has been linked to the rise in depression levels globally.
Al Suwaidi highlighted that the advances of modern life often lead to depression. People lead stressful lives and prolonged stress is known to trigger depression. “Psychiatrists know that stress can trigger mental disorders and problems arise when stress response doesn't switch off. Stress-hormone levels that stay too high for too long cause high blood pressure and suppress the immune system. Studies have proven that severe or prolonged stress also raises the risk of psychiatric disease.”
Al Hashem added that fast-paced modern day lives can lead to a burnout which is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
She added in such cases it’s important to either take a break or change your environment. Additionally, it’s imperative to life a healthy life, get enough sleep and exercise regularly.