Mental illness: Stigmatised and marginalised
Nearly half of Qatari youth suffer from some kind of mental illness. Yet, discussions are just a whisper at best. It’s time we mainstreamed mental health conversations. Starting now.
In my culture, there is insurmountable stigma attached to having depression, as it has become inextricably linked to the matter of one’s faith, or lack thereof. By that logic, one can simply rid them selves of depression through prayer alone. While that may be effective for many people, this belief is often a superficial and uninformed judgment on a complex condition that, depending on the severity, can tread in to clinical territory. This lack of awareness in our society, coupled with the general alienation and wariness towards individuals afflicted with depression, is not only counter-productive to solving the problem, but also exacerbates it.
Qatar is ill-equipped to handle this growing epidemic, and has been for a long time.
Ironically, recent findings continue to prove that depression, along with other mental ailments, continue to increase at an unprecedented rate in Qatar. A recently released study (see sidebar) revealed the high incidence of mental illness amongst Qataris. Almost one-quarter of all Qatari adults studied had at least one type of mental disorder. The highest prevalence of common mental disorders in Qatari population was depression and anxiety disorder.
What I find particularly troubling, is that Qatar is ill-equipped to handle this growing epidemic, and has been for a long time. While the public health sector generally leaves a lot to be desired, the lack of qualified specialists and proper treatment facilities for treating depression is disturbing.
Currently, the only facility available is in a very depressing state in itself. The psychiatric clinic, located opposite the Centre shopping outlet, has changed very little through the years, compared to the fast-paced development that has taken place in the area surrounding it.
The oddly located premises overlooks two congested and lively roads; a stark contrast to the grim and dismal interior of the building confined within those walls. Once inside, one cannot help but feel trapped in the claustrophobic and outmoded building, a place more suggestive of a penitentiary than a clinic.
The deplorable and neglected state this clinic is in, is not conducive to the well being of those who seek help for their mental health, but is additionally not in alignment with the state’s ambitious vision for the health sector as part of Qatar’s 2030 vision. I think it is critical to begin a national dialogue to raise awareness about this growing epidemic that silently affects many of us. And with the State working towards providing better healthcare facilities, this issue ought to be at the forefront of their agenda.