World Mental Health Day: how to access free support in the UAE

Reaching out for mental health support can feel overwhelming.

Marking World Mental Health Day on 10 October, The National spoke with several mental health experts in the UAE to show you how and where support can be found and accessed.

There are several free helplines and support groups run by clinics in the UAE that people can reach, many of which are listed below.

“It is really important for people to know that there is help out there and that they should not suffer silently,” said Dr Yasin Aslam, medical director of the Center for Psychiatry and Medicine in Dubai.

“It can be hard and challenging to take that first step and reach out for help.

“It takes courage but it’s definitely a step worth taking that can result in many potential benefits for your health and well-being.”

Getting help can be as simple as logging onto the Internet and looking up clinics that offer mental health services in your area.

Most clinics have their staff details on their website and some may choose to make an appointment with a psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist, depending on their biography.

Carolyn Yaffe, a psychiatrist at Camali Clinic in Dubai, said people can also go to their general practitioner and ask for references.

Once one contacts a clinic they may face short or long waiting times.

“If there’s some emergency, they’ll come to us and ask us if there’s a way we can fit them in and we’ll figure something out,” Ms. Yaffe said.

She explained that when a client calls a clinic, they usually have to answer a few questions, such as what kind of service they are looking for.

First Appointment

“It’s really important to make sure the person is comfortable because it’s so hard to come and see someone for the first time… it’s incredibly hard to unwind,” said Dr. Asad Sadiq, consultant psychiatrist at The Psychiatry and Therapy. Center in Dubai.

“This is the time when you have to give hope to someone and reassure them that they are going to get better and listen properly to their problems and expectations,” he said.

Covering the Insurance

Experts said one of the things that keeps many people from getting mental health help is the lack of health insurance coverage and the cost of therapy or treatment.

Ms. Yaffe said administrative staff at clinics are trained to help people check whether their insurance provider will cover their mental health treatment.

Some insurance providers may have a network they work with so that someone can be selected from a selection of approved clinics.

“Unfortunately, there is still insufficient insurance coverage for mental health difficulties from many of the major providers. However, this is certainly improving,” said Dr Aslam.

“It’s always good to inquire with your insurance provider directly to determine the extent of coverage they will provide for mental health conditions depending upon the terms and conditions of your individual policy.”

Free Resources

There are several initiatives for citizens and residents in the UAE, where people can access mental health services for free.

These free helplines are set up by government initiatives and can be used to access mental health support from qualified professionals. These include:

— The Estijaba helpline: 8001717.

This helpline was set up to address psychological distress calls, including emergencies in the community. It is a free-of-cost service available six days a week, from Sunday to Friday between 8am and 6pm.

— The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention also has a hotline for those seeking help: 045192519

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