UAEU celebrates World Mental Health Day

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Dr. Karim Abdel Aziz, Assistant Professor – Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine and Health Sciences

Al Ain: The United Arab Emirates University yesterday marked the occasion of World Mental Health Day.  The World Health Organisation designated the 10th October as an annual international event dedicated to raising global awareness of mental health and mobilising efforts to support mental health.

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 is ‘Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality!’. The campaign aims to improve the quality of mental health services, identify innovative ways to provide mental health care in the community, and to highlight the importance of mental health. It advocates the importance of mental health and the role of mental health in societal development, and campaigns against the stigma of mental illness.

Dr. Karim Abdel Aziz, Assistant Professor – Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine and Health Sciences said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant and serious negative impact on the mental health in all societies.  It has had damaging repercussions for some groups, such as health care professionals, workers on the front line, students, and people living alone.  The preventative and precautionary measures implemented to limit the pandemic forced a radical change in the pattern of normal life. These measures include social distancing, remote working, distance learning, restrictions on travel and public transport, and closure of some business. Their impact was felt as a significant increase in stress, anxiety and other negative emotions. The global crisis turned education and business into virtual environments and social media became the predominant tool of communication”.

Dr Karim explained the important role played by the College of Medicine at the UAEU. “A research team developed a natural language processing model based on machine learning, capable of making assessments of mental health and mental disorders based on the use of social media. The results of the pilot were used to improve the design, and to generate recommendations for positive mental health support to help people deal with the stress of the coronavirus outbreak”.

He said, “The College of Medicine at UAEU works with several mental health institutions in the UAE and internationally, such as Al-Amal Hospital in Dubai and King’s College Hospital London. It gives open access lectures to university students that highlight the importance of mental health. It also provides psychological support to all students, administrators, and faculty members in need.  It supports government efforts to combat the virus by promoting volunteering mental health services within the public health system”. 

Dr Karim expressed his pride in the College of Medicine at UAEU. “We are pleased that faculty and students have worked together to present research papers and publish them in specialised journals.  We are glad to have worked with Al Ain Hospital to introduce mental health into the foundation curriculum for College of Medicine students, thus giving all future clinicians a grounding in the field”.