Some people find it difficult to approach a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor in Dubai when they are struggling with life challenges or a mental health disorder.

Mental health is a common problem in every population, including Dubai. According to Global Health (2017), at least one in seven people worldwide suffer from one or more mental health disorders or a substance use disorder (alcoholism/drug addiction). The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the UAE has the highest regional proportion of depression and also ranks high in anxiety. Yet many people prefer to suffer in silence. The Arab News (2019) noted that less than half of Arab respondents to a YouGov survey in the UAE said they would seek professional help from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor if they had a mental disorder. They said that the stigma surrounding mental illness discourages them from seeking help.

An article in World Psychiatry discussed that the stigma of mental illness is a well-studied phenomenon. Sociologists and social psychologists divide this stigma into public stigma and self-stigma. They explain, “Public stigma is the reaction of the general population to people with mental illness. [Self-stigma is the prejudice that people with mental illness hold against themselves. Both public stigma and self-stigma can be understood in terms of three components: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination. ”

Indeed, many patients in Dubai are reluctant to seek treatment and talk openly about their mental health because they fear how and what others might think about them, and because they fear being treated differently. Not only do patients worry about what people might think of them if they seek help, but they often have internalized negative perceptions of mental illness. For example, they often think they are weak when they approach a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They have an expectation of themselves that they should always have good mental health and be able to deal with a problem on their own.

A person who would benefit from professional help may also hold back when it comes to mental health because of loving family members. Families may discourage family members from seeking psychiatric or psychological help because they believe that love, structure, and support are enough to treat a mental health disorder. Lay people may be unaware of the complexity of mental disorders and think they can provide sufficient support and guidance to their loved ones. Family support is important in all areas of life and contributes to better physical and mental health; however, when a serious mental disorder is present, professional treatment by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor is essential.

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