Ms. Carolyn Yaffe and Dr. Rasha Abbas speak about the severity of ignoring the burgeoning topic of mental illness.

25th Apr, 2018 Categories: Blog, In the News


In a disruptive society controlled by the falsehood of perfection driven by social media, young adults and adolescents are fostering addictions to celebrity culture and phone applications. The by-product of a technology-driven culture are manifestations of anxiety, depression and other stress-related disorders. The impending crisis of mental illnesses growing within societies is a global epidemic, and the UAE is one of the first countries making laudable strides in addressing mental health issues. “The government’s initiatives are an important and innovative approach to improve the wellness of the entire community. Putting people’s wellness at the heart of policies will have a great impact on the overall quality of life,” says Dr Rasha Abbas, Medical Director and Consultant Psychiatrist for Camali Clinic, at Health plus Abu Dhabi.

Camali Clinic was one of the pioneering child and adult mental healthcare providers in the UAE to provide individualised treatments for their patients. Aligned with the UAE’s mission to facilitate mental healthcare services across private and public sectors, Camali provides a patient-centred holistic approach for children, adolescents, and adults who are facing difficulties with their own well-being while also providing support for their families.

In addition, Camali Clinic hosts a range of support groups and programmes for children between the ages of 2 and 18 who are experiencing mental health difficulties, which may result in prolonged depression, absences from school or social situations, as well as various adult programme and support groups. The comprehensive programme they offer provide an environment that individualises the needs of each person in groups and individual therapy sessions. Camali’s programmes include School Readiness Programme, Bounce Back Programme, social skills groups, after-school community groups and parent support groups, all provided by their team of specialists working within a multi-disciplinary framework to deliver and ensure a holistic and comprehensive treatment approach to patient care.

Although advancements have been made to address mental illnesses through discussion and awareness, individuals still have a limited grasp over the life changing symptoms that can take a perilous toll over patients. For many, mental illness is a heavily stereotyped condition, which is still stigmatised in various societies. “Mental health disorders are often labelled negatively due to a lack of understanding and education. Therefore emphasising awareness and education on mental health is crucial in order to eliminate misconceptions. Culture plays an important role in how we perceive mental illness, and can be a barrier in seeking out help and support for individuals and their families. Mental health is still a very misunderstood and sensitive topic for many people and can plague patients with shame in coming to terms with their condition,”explains Carolyn Yaffe, Counsellor at the Camali Clinic, Dubai.

Further to raising awareness on existing disorders afflicting adults and teenagers, detecting learning difficulties in children at a young age and getting them the necessary help can be the key to a child’s future. “It is important that parents familiarise themselves with the early indicators and recognise the warning signs of a learning disability as early as preschool, in order to get the correct help in a time sensitive manner. The earlier a learning disability is detected, the better chance a child will have of being successful in school and in life. The first years in school are especially critical for a young child as having a learning disability can affect their ability to read, write, speak, do math, and build social relationships,” says Yaffe.

“The most common learning disability is difficulty with language and reading. Unfortunately, many children with learning disabilities go undiagnosed which results in the child developing low self-esteem, failure to thrive in school, and upon reaching adulthood, difficulty in the workplace. With early detection and intervention, parents can give their children the necessary skills for success. It is important to note that children with learning disabilities are generally of normal or above-average intelligence; however, simply process information differently,” she adds.

Internal and external factors existing in corporate organisations are afflicting individuals on a larger scale, yet employees are afraid to communicate freely about their persisting afflictions. To combat this, companies are offering mental health support services, which is a positive step towards recognising mental health issues. “To tackle stigma, employers need to openly talk about mental health related issues, to support their employees and see them in a holistic light. They should lead by example and develop a culture of inclusion where employees should not be penalised for having a mental illness. In addition, a comprehensive insurance policy should be adopted to further alleviate patients who brush aside mental illness,” says Dr Abbas.

According to a survey by the World Health Organisation, 13 per cent of UAE school students aged between 13 and 15 have seriously considered attempting suicide. Another study in 2012, conducted by the American University of Sharjah had indicated that 40 per cent of respondents considered themselves addicted to internet use. Increased use of social media and the internet is a lethal combination, which can lead to depression and suicide. “The effects of internet addiction are rampant, with users comparing their own life to the life of a friend resulting in them feeling inadequate or worse-off. This is most common in young people, as they will often compare their life to their favourite young celebrities. In addition, in our society, we are barraged with unrealistic images of how we should look, and dress. It is often not understood that these images are mostly photoshopped. This can lead to low self-esteem, developing body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. Depression as a result of using social media is only likely to get worse, if people are not educated about the risks of excessive use,” explains Yaffe.

Dr Rasha says to live a fulfilled life, prioritising one’s health, on both an emotional and physical level is important “Chronic stress is bad for our health at every level. It has been evident in a number of published research papers that chronic exposure to stress hormones and chemicals released in response to persistent stress is harmful to the body even at a cellular level. It affects the heart, the immune system, the digestive system and even the healing process. It also depletes the brain of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine resulting in increased susceptibility to mental illness like depression. That is why it is so important to be self-aware and recognise early signs of stress and put in place stress management remedies.”

Camali Clinic’s full spectrum of services include:

Psychiatry, Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural

Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and

Reprocessing) Family Therapy, Couples Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA services, Speech and Language Therapy, Parental Education and Support.

In addition, they offer Psycho-Educational

Assessments for the treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder; Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Behavioural

Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression,

Eating Disorders, Executive Functioning, Learning Difficulties, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Psychotic

Disorders and Schizophrenia, Self-Harming ,

Sensory Processing, Speech and Language

Difficulties, and Stress Related Problems.