Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority has urged schools in the Emirates to employ full-time mental health counselors, in order to help deal with rising rates of mental illness amongst young people.
Mental illness rates are rising worldwide, especially amongst young people, and the UAE is no exception to this trend. Lowering the stigma that often surrounds the issues has been targeted as a key aim for the country’s Ministry of Health.
Whilst rates are rising - either due to greater rates of acceptance, greater knowledge around the issues or a more stressful and demanding lifestyle - the number of psychiatrists in the country still needs to grow, potentially opening up some great opportunities for Western trained specialists eyeing a move to the Middle East.
The opening of a branch of the highly respected Priory Clinic in Dubai Healthcare City earlier this month is a step forward for mental health support in the Emirate, however now many believe that it should be offered from an early age.
Speaking to ‘The National’ about the proposals to offer young people access to counselling, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Maudsley Clinic Abu Dhabi, Dr Khaled Kadry said: "Seventy per cent of mental health problems occur before the age of 14, and so it is safe to say that there are children in every school who have emotional behavioural difficulties, but may not have an outlet to speak about these difficulties.
"We see school counsellors as the first line of defence. Children can speak to them as easily as they would speak to any teacher and do not need parental consent to do so."
Whether or not schools implement the advice remains to be seen, however with global mental health rates rising at a concerningly fast pace - especially amongst teenagers - something drastic has to change soon.