Physicians specializing in psychiatry confirmed that the high cost of psychological treatment, the lack of insurance coverage, and stigma are the most prominent challenges facing the treatment of mental illnesses in children and adolescents, calling for the need to reconsider its inclusion in the insurance services for early prevention and limiting its exacerbation.
They assured Emirates Today that genetic and societal factors are behind most mental illnesses for children and adolescents, calling for the need for early and periodic examination of these two groups, to ensure their mental health, and to treat diseases before they worsen.
In detail, Dr. Mishaal Sultan, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Al Jalila Children’s Hospital, said: “Many mental illnesses that spread among children and adolescents require early detection and immediate treatment, most notably autism spectrum disorder, which affects between 1.5% and 2.5%. % of children, and hyperactivity and distraction, which affects about 5% of them, in addition to anxiety disorders, tension, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He pointed out that the treatment of mental illnesses in children and adolescents faces several challenges, most notably the availability of sufficient examination services and specialists, in addition to the high costs of psychological treatment, and the absence of insurance coverage for this type of disease.
He continued: «The feeling of stigma or social embarrassment is one of the most prominent challenges that many families face in seeking treatment for their children with any of the mental illnesses, which must change by changing society’s view of psychiatry in general, as it is one of the medical specialties that is not considered asylum. It is disgraceful or socially embarrassing.”
Sultan mentioned that some mental illnesses in children begin before they complete their first year, such as autism spectrum disorder, which appears in 50% of children at this age, while hyperactivity disease appears starting from the age of four years, and what affects adolescents most often is anxiety and depression disorders. And obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He stressed that the UAE has taken important steps for the early detection of diseases and mental disorders in children, as part of its national strategies in the fields of health and education, as the mental health examination of children has been included in the tasks of family doctors in clinics and primary health centers.
For her part, Dr. Hanan Derby, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, stated that genetic factors are one of the most important causes of mental illness in children, as genetic causes may lead to the transmission of the disease and its appearance in someone in the family, while the surrounding environment is also among the most prominent causes. Exposing a child to bullying or mistreatment, whether at school or in the surrounding environment, may lead to a mental illness.
She pointed out that autism spectrum disorder is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in the age group under 12 years, as well as behavioral problems resulting from upbringing, which appear in the form of rebellion in children, in addition to mental disabilities that may result from problems during pregnancy and childbirth.
Dr. Derby added that the category of adolescents or young adults is prevalent among anxiety, stress, social phobia, panic attacks, and depression, in addition to behavioral diseases, obsessive-compulsive disorder, involuntary movement disorders, psychosis, and addiction in general.
She stressed that the lack of societal awareness about the importance of mental health, the high cost of treatment for this type of disease, which requires long-term treatment periods, and the high cost of treatment, are among the main reasons for reluctance, in addition to the fact that visiting a psychiatrist still constitutes a stigma in the culture of many families.
She pointed out the importance of schools having a major role in examining and supporting the mental health of children, and establishing primary health centers to treat simple cases at the beginning, to help specialists who undertake the full treatment process later, and adding psychiatry service to the insurance coverage, so that everyone can obtain treatment. right on time.
In turn, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Azhar Abu Ali, said that depression, fear, anxiety, autism and behavioral disorders, most prevalent among children and adolescents, result either from environmental factors related to the family, school or the surrounding community, noting that the “Covid-19” pandemic also It had imposed a new pattern on this group, and affected it greatly. Genetic factors also play an influential role in the incidence of this type of disease.
She added: «Despite the fact that the UAE is one of the most developed countries in the field of mental health services and early detection, this specialty needs more specialists, as there is a scarcity of them, in addition to including these treatment services within health insurance packages due to their great importance, and facilitating access to these services. And she continued, “It is noticeable that some parents have become more aware of the importance of examining their children psychologically, and seeking support in this field, but there are still some barriers in society to the demand for this type of treatment,” stressing the importance of continuing to spread awareness about the importance of Prevention and treatment, in order to build a healthy child psychologically.
Child and adolescent psychiatry specialist, Dr. Azhar Abu Ali, stressed the need for the orientation to be towards comprehensive health, by integrating the psychological examination of children and adolescents to become part of the basic examination in all hospitals and health centers, and to qualify trained cadres on it, as well as cooperation between health and educational authorities to monitor behavior Children, contain any uncontrolled symptoms they appear, and treat them directly.
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