DUBAI: More access to psychiatric help is needed across the region, say experts, as they warn a lack of health cover for patients with severe depression serves as a barrier to treatment — especially for those under extreme financial pressure.
Dr. Haytham Shabayek, specialist in psychiatry at Medeor 24X7 Hospital, in Abu Dhabi, said while UAE nationals are provided psychiatric care as part of government health packages provided to Emiratis, for expatriates it is a different story.
Although some expatriates have a higher band of insurance that covers the costs of psychiatric care, most employer insurance schemes do not offer the same level of cover.
“This is the key,” he said. “Psychiatric problems are not insured — this is the main problem — and psychiatric help can be very costly. One session with a psychiatrist alone can cost anywhere between 500 dirhams ($136) and 1,000 dirhams, and if you need to receive medication, as those with severe depression often do, you are looking at a course of medication costing from between 700 dirhams to 1,000 dirhams.”
It means for those suffering with suicidal thoughts because of external economic factors, there is nowhere to turn for the psychiatric help that they need.
“Decision-makers should try and make psychiatric consolation affordable, available and reachable for everyone because this is a real (barrier) against people seeking treatment. We are waiting to give people help until it is turns into a real emergency situation. So why don’t we have a system to make it affordable and reachable for all at the right stages? It will ultimately save money — and save lives.”
Dr. Fabian Saarloos, a clinical and health care psychologist at the German Neuroscience Center, in Dubai Healthcare City, also said more access to treatment is needed while further prevention programs need to be implemented.
“Awareness that suicide is preventable should be promoted. Efforts to reduce access to lethal means and methods of self-harm should be promoted. Institutions need to be trained in the recognition and signalling, and most importantly, intervention when confronted with suicidal people, and a protocol should be set up. A suicide-prevention programs, as suggested by WHO, should be enacted and promoted.”
Resha Erheim, a counselor at Lifeworks mental health counselling center, agreed that more could be done to help people suffering from depression and suicidal ideation.
“The first step is de-stigmatizing mental health conditions through edu
“Government bodies can offer support groups, financial assistance, workshops, resources that help address the issue.
“A suicide hotline with trained crisis intervention counsellors would be an important step to tackle this growing problem.”