Most UAE residents would seek professional help if they or someone they knew were suffering from mental health problems. However, the proportion saying they would get expert assistance varies markedly depending on the type of mental health issue, said global market search and data company YouGov in its new study.
The research came in the wake of the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) 'Happy Lives, Healthy Communities' strategy to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. It found that more than seven in 10 (72%) would seek – or suggest seeking – help from a mental health professional if they (or a person they are close to) were struggling with their mental health.
More than half (55%) would also talk to a close friend or family member, while three in 10 (30%) would talk to a trusted authority figure, such as a religious leader. Around a quarter would either go to a general practitioner (28%) or seek help from alternative medicine or treatment (25%). YouGov’s data showed that fewer than one in five would do research online for help (19%) or handle it themselves (15%).
However, the proportion who would seek professional help varies greatly depending on the type of mental health issue.
The study found that the majority of respondents would look for expert assistance for mental health issues such as having suicidal thoughts (62%), self-harm (61%), hallucinations or delusions (56%), anxiety issues (55%) and post-traumatic stress disorder (53%).
However, fewer than half would seek professional help when it came to obsessive compulsive behaviours (49%), personality disorders (47%), bipolar disorders (43%) and eating disorders (36%).
Even though there is a willingness to reach out to professionals for help in many circumstances, YouGov’s research suggests that the stigma around mental illness still exists in the UAE. More than two in five (44%) said they would not feel comfortable talking about their mental health if they were to struggle with it in the future. Similarly, nearly four in 10 (38%) would feel embarrassed to deal with it, and more than a third (36%) would be ‘uncomfortable’ going to a professional for help.
The data showed that men are more likely than women to be embarrassed about addressing their mental issues (42% of men vs 31% of women) and also be less willing to seek professional help (39% of men vs 32% of women).
According to the research, three in five (60%) people deemed that promoting mental wellness through well-being activities in families, schools and communities would be the most effective way to eliminate the stigma. Around half believed that the stigma associated with mental illness in the country could be reduced by talking openly about mental health treatments as one would discuss physical health treatments (52%), creating awareness through government campaigns (49%), and normalising conversations about mental illness among friends and family (47%).
The research was based on data collected online between 1 and 7 April 2019 by YouGov Omnibus from 1,085 respondents in the UAE. YouGov has over six million people worldwide in its database.