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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Mental health course for public designed to help adults manage friends and family with issues

Move marks the first time the programme, currently only taught to professionals, will be available to the public

Dr Tarek Darwish, medical director of the behavioural sciences pavilion at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, speaking on the first day of World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation at Adnec. Pawan Singh / The National
Dr Tarek Darwish, medical director of the behavioural sciences pavilion at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, speaking on the first day of World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation at Adnec. Pawan Singh / The National

Members of the public will for the first time have access to a specialist course designed to help them to better support friends and loved ones with mental illness.

Parents who have a child with mental health problems and others with colleagues or friends in need will be among those to benefit when the programme is launched.

The psychosocial rehabilitation course was announced at the 1st International Congress of the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation (WAPR), held in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

UAE health providers will provide accredited courses in Arabic and English to residents that complete it.

At present, only Seha's Sheikh Khalifa Medical City teaches the programme and it is only for medical professionals.

At the event, doctors stressed on the importance of integrating mentally ill patients into society, by helping them get the skills necessary to be able to get a job, finish school and achieving any life goals they might. Offering support courses like those outlined will work towards that.

“The concept of psychosocial rehabilitation is not well matured in the minds of people, they are interested but want to be shown how to apply it," said Dr Tarek Abdalla Darwish Selim, medical director of the behavioural sciences pavilion at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

The centre's behavioural sciences pavilion began the process of rehabilitating and integrating patients back into society in 1995, including those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

“We are treating with drugs and patients are doing better, but are we carrying out our role towards the community?" he said.

"Are these patients able to function as a father, as a worker, and is he able to enjoy his life, to pursue his career, interact with other people? Just treating patients is not enough.”

Dr Medhat Elsabbahy, head of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Department at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, said that more community-based support centres away from major hospitals are needed.

“Establishing more community-based services and training more personnel is very important... psychiatric rehabilitation practitioners are very limited around the world and in the region," he said.

"Our main aim now is not just medicating the patient to manage their symptoms but to get them better functioning – taking them back into society."

Prof Ahmed Okasha, founder and emeritus chairman of the Institute of Psychiatry of Egypt’s Ain Shams University, said that reintegration into society remains an early stage in the region.

“We always say that the patient has improved but we speak about the symptoms only, we never speak about the quality of life," he said.

"If he is a young boy or girl, we don’t speak about their academic progress, because they stopped due to of the illness. Or if they are married, we don’t speak about their marriage, their job, their personal communication – this is rehabilitation.

"We have to look at how to integrate the person in society. This means you need to have housing, employment, vocational skills. Drugs will never help them fully integrate; they will improve symptoms but not the quality life. We should train all psychiatrists not only to give drugs but to give advice on the types of rehabilitation needed.”

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