x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A sad, sad story when it all comes crashing down

Woman spoke out after she began to feel ill.

It has been more than a week since the full-time maid employed by "Sarah" and her family was taken into hospital after voicing fears about her mental state.

"She's been here 14 months and just had her contract renewed," said Sarah, from the UK. "She was due to go home next month for seven weeks, but basically she had a breakdown.

"She went from being completely normal one day, albeit a little quiet, to hearing voices and seeing things. She thought she was dying."

Less than two days after speaking to her employer the maid, 33, from the Philippines, was "catatonic".

"She was completely gone so we took her to the hospital," said Sarah.

The doctor who is overseeing the maid's case told Sarah that incidents like this are common.

"I imagine this is how some of these incidents happen," she said. "Our maid said to us that she didn't want to be around our baby because she was worried she would hurt him. I don't think she would, but she was scared."

In the hospital ward where the maid is staying, more than a quarter of the other patients are there for similar reasons, said the mother of one.

But the problem lies in the way these women are treated, as opposed to whether or not they have had a psychiatric evaluation before coming to the UAE, she said.

"A lot of the women who work here, they don't have days off and they don't get paid sufficiently. They are worried about supporting their families," Sarah said.

The doctor said the reason for the maid's sudden breakdown could be attributed to an incident in her past that she might have been too afraid to speak about, such as a physical attack.

"It could be buried so deep that she might not even remember," Sarah said.

"The worry and the stress and the embarrassment of it has built up over time.

"She may have thought we'd find out about it and be angry."

When their maid is discharged, the family has been advised by doctors to cancel her visa.

The woman, her family's sole breadwinner, is due to fly home.

"She's great and we love her, but perhaps the pressure [she felt] to be perfect was too much," said Sarah.

* Zaineb Al Hassani