The Future of Mental Healthcare in the United Arab Emirates
The structure and content of this book is based on the first draft of my
thesis proposal that was inspired by my first attempt to do a PhD on the topic
of “Mental Health in the United Arab Emirates” in 2009 when I applied to the School of Psychology,
Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and
Health Sciences at Monash University in Australia. A degree that I have not
completed due to external circumstances and personal choices that took me
towards different career paths and educational endeavors.
My captivation with the topic of Mental Health goes back to when I was
thirteen years old and had decided at the time that I wanted to be a Clinical
Psychologist when I grow up. Coming from a multi-ethnic background as the son
of a German father and an Emirati mother, allowed me to cultivate a unique
perspective about what drives individualism and the uniqueness of one’s
character. At the time, I was fascinated with that sponge between our ears that
makes us tick, the “brain”! I further became interested in the writings of
Sigmund Freud and through him; I became interested in mental illness from a
psychoanalytic perspective. I was not, at the time, able to differentiate
between Neurology, Psychiatry and Psychology although I tend to believe that I
have always been a clinician at heart.
As I grew up, I kept on reading different Clinical Psychology textbooks in
Arabic. I remember in particular reading for the first time, the work of Dr.
Abdel-Sattar Ibrahim titled “Clinical
Psychology: Methods of Diagnosis and Psychotherapy”1 that was published in 1988 by “Dar Almareekh for
Publishing” in Riyadh, which I read at the age of sixteen. To my surprise, I
studied the same textbook during the Clinical Psychology module at my
undergraduate studies for the Bachelor of Psychology at the United Arab Emirates
University (UAEU) in Al Ain. As I commenced my undergraduate studies, my focus
has been on Clinical Psychology. I took every subject that is relevant to my
clinical passion and conducted three years of summer and university training in
Clinical Psychology and Psychometrics at the New Psychiatric Hospital in Abu
Dhabi, currently known as the Behavioral Sciences Pavilion at Sheikh Khalifa
Medical City, under the direct supervision of three distinguished specialists:
· Dr. Al Zain Abbas Amara, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of the NPH.
· Dr. Faisel Al Zerad, Consultant and Head of Clinical Psychology Unit at
· Dr. Akram Kamal Wilson, Consultant Psychiatrist at the NPH.
Such an early exposure to clinical practice and research during my
foundational years, allowed me to have the opportunity to experience Mental
Healthcare systems and services from within the field. Yet, after all these
years and despite the changes in my career path and the diversity of my
research interests, I remain concerned about the challenges that face mental
healthcare within the context of the UAE and passionately committed to the
advancement of the field at all levels.
The theme of the “World Mental Health Day” for the year 2023 is “Mental
Health is a Universal Human Right” in recognition of 75 years of The World
Federation for Mental Health, which symbolizes the global efforts for the
advocacy and awareness of Mental Health at a global scale.2 Here in the UAE, Mental Health remains a topic that requires further
attention and special focus in terms of active advocacy and vibrant engagement
to raise public awareness. I would argue that Mental Health systems in the UAE
need to be critically addressed and thoroughly investigated in order to develop
effective, preventive and recovery-based Mental Health services that can
contribute to the strategic vision of the improvement and development of the
current health system.
This book is a modest effort in this direction with a specific focus on
Mental Healthcare at the federal and local levels as well as at the
governmental and private levels. Thus, I have attempted to provide a systemic
analysis and perform a critical examination of Mental Health systems and
services in the UAE in order to map current challenges and develop future
prospects for the improvement of mental healthcare. It is, nonetheless, an
effort to capture the essence of the current status of Mental Healthcare in the
UAE and trying to take it to the next level by addressing several key questions
a.What is the status of the Mental Healthcare sector in comparison to other
health care sectors in the UAE?
b.How can we improve existing Mental Healthcare systems and services in the
c. How can we improve international collaboration between the UAE and the
international community in relation to Mental Healthcare?
These broad questions represent the core direction of the book but it is
not limited to them. The topic is big in scale and one can generate questions
that can cover a wide variety of aspects that might be of interest and/or
concern. Moreover, the book will seek to close the gap in information on Mental
Healthcare in the UAE and provide an alternative perspective on its improvement
It has been said that “there is no health without mental health.”3 This is particularly true in the case of the ambitious
plans to improve and develop health systems in the UAE. There is no doubt, that
the UAE has placed “health” as one of its top developmental priorities.
However, the need for more attention and integration between health systems and
Mental Health systems is necessary. Thus, it is my hope that this book will
serve as a very humble contribution to UAE’s endless efforts to provide the
best healthcare systems and services available and that it will constructively
influence the advancement and flourishment of the Mental Healthcare sector in
the benefit of patients, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers.