The Mental Health Service of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has launched a set of new services on the 16000 unified helpline to assist members of the public in accessing specialised psychological support services during the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
Dr Majid al-Abdullah, Head of Mental Health Services at HMC, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected thousands of people physically, and affected the mental and emotional health of many more people in Qatar.
He noted that the coronavirus has forced people to change many aspects of their lives, as their routine has been turned upside down, explaining that even in normal circumstances, many people may experience some form of stress or psychological disorder, but with the emergence of the Covid-19 virus and its effect on life today can be a major cause of stress and anxiety.
He pointed out that the launch of the mental health helpline and the virtual counselling service to provide support was important because of the urgent need for these services. The new helpline was launched in the beginning of April to provide support to people suffering from stress or mental disorder as a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the helpline provided support to more than 5,000 people.
The helpline includes a team of experienced mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, social researchers and nursing personnel from various institutions.
Team members assess the situation and provide support for callers of four major groups: children, adolescents and their parents, adults, the elderly, and frontline healthcare workers.
The main languages available on the helpline include Arabic and English, but the team responsible for receiving calls includes cadres who speak other languages such as Hindi, Malayalam and Urdu.
The new virtual counselling service started at the beginning of May and it enables individuals to communicate with a mental health specialist via video call. There are many benefits of this new service, including protecting the health and safety of patients, improving access to mental health support, and helping to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health services.
Dr May Muraisi, Executive Director, Clinical Development and head of psychology at HMC, said that there is an important advantage of the virtual service and helpline as it reduces the stigma that often accompanies the request for support for mental health.
She added that patients may be very shy about asking for help and visiting mental health hospitals or health centres that deal with mental health, but through the virtual counselling service, patients have more privacy as they can have access to help they need while they are at home.
She pointed out that the helpline is taking an additional step with regard to reducing stigma, as calls are confidential and can be made in a way that does not reveal the identity of the caller completely.
For his part, Dr Raed Amr, Assistant Executive Director of Mental Health Services, reviewed how the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) uses advanced technology for the benefit of patients who need mental health services, and said that this is done through the use of the latest technologies to improve access to mental health services and to give patients more options to enhance confidentiality and privacy of services.
He noted that the large number of calls received via the new helpline shows that this is a highly needed service and the initial comments from the users have been very positive, and an assessment is being made of the ability to continue developing this type of treatment after the end of the Covid-19 virus crisis.
For her part, Katja Warwick-Smith, Assistant Executive Director of Nursing, Mental Health Services considered it natural for people to feel sad and anxious during an outbreak (Covid-19), but it is important to be aware that these difficult times will pass and life will gradually return to normal in good time though this may not happen completely.