x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Victims of violence need counselling

In three years, Al Ain hospitals treated 76 victims of violence, and experts say psychiatric help is as important as medical assistance

Al Ain // Victims of violence who end up in hospital need counselling as much as medical treatment, psychiatrists say.

In three years, Al Ain hospitals treated 76 victims of violence, of which 62 cases suffered blunt-force trauma, 10 had been stabbed and three shot.

Almost half the injuries, 34 cases, were the result of domestic violence, according to a study.

Beyond the physical harm, such injuries could have "long-term consequences that could last up to 10 years" and be psychological in nature, said Dr Osama Ossman, an associate professor in psychiatry at UAE University, who conducted the research.

Casualty wards do not assess patients' mental health. If patients want to consult a counsellor or a psychiatrist, they can do so independently, but most do not.

Dr Ossman told a conference in Al Ain this week that his study, which was conducted between 2003 and 2006 but only just released, had revealed "a need to develop specialised mental health interventional services" not only for the victims, but for those who had inflicted the injuries.

Dr Yousef Abouallaban, a consultant psychiatrist and director of the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, also stressed the need for mental health intervention on arrival at a casualty ward.

"Unfortunately, trauma patients here have no one attending to their psychiatric needs," he said.

Counselling can also help those who engaged in violence, he said. While in many cases, the courts should deal with perpetrators, others could be helped to stop their behaviour. "There is a need to differentiate between the legal aspect and the medical aspect," he said.

Dr Azhar Abuali, the director of care and rehabilitation at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, stressed the need for victims of domestic violence to be given help.

"Abusive behaviour stems from psychological and other social factors that if a person doesn't seek professional help for, then the abusive cycle will continue," she said.

In domestic abuse, verbal attacks can do profound long-term damage, she said: "The act of hitting can also leave a psychological mark and verbal abuse and humiliation can leave just as painful a mark as the physical abuse."

The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children had seen a rise in the number of cases it was seeing, Dr Abuali added.

"The subject has become less of a taboo," she said. "People are trusting professionals and an increasing number of Emiratis as well as expats are seeking help."