HBKU Press’s academic platform QScience.com has recently published a research article exploring the negative effects of mental health stigma in Qatar revealing how stigmas hinder mental health patients from seeking help and treatment
Launched in September 2011, QScience.com is a peer-reviewed online publishing platform that offers a unique and collaborative research environment for academics and scholars in Qatar, the MENA and the rest of the world. QScience.com adopts the Open Access publishing model and hosts scholarly journals, conference proceedings, and ebooks to disseminate knowledge and understanding of scientific, social, political and health- related subjects while adhering to the international publishing standards.
“The impact of publishing this type of article is critical to share the findings of less addressed issues with the local and global audience. We thrive to set our multidisciplinary QScience Connect journal at the level where valid, ethical, and impactful research is perceived by the broadest possible audience without barriers,” said Dr. Rima J. Isaifan, the Head of Academic and Journals Publishing at HBKU Press.
This article, Stigma towards mental disorders in Qatar: a qualitative study, written by researchers at the University of Calgary in Qatar and the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton: Bridget Stirling, Jason Hickey, Hanin Omar and Vahe Kehyayan, investigates a previously taboo subject matter that is only just being openly discussed and explored in the region.
“Mental health stigma has been studied extensively in Western countries, but has received very little research attention in the Middle East,” says Dr. Jason Hickey, Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton (PhD). “It is important to study mental illness stigma in Qatar in order to support the Ministry of Public Health in its efforts to provide world-class care to people in Qatar who suffer from mental illness.”
Through extensive interviews with several outpatients from mental health clinics, the research assesses how society views people with mental illness, the experience of receiving a mental illness diagnosis, and how mental illness and the stigma towards mental illness affects daily life.
According to the research cited in the article, 36.6% of adults receiving healthcare from Primary Health Care Centers in Qatar met the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental illness with depression being the most commonly diagnosed disorder at 13.5%, followed by anxiety disorders at 10.3%. Yet, many people do not receive the treatment needed to manage mental illness due to the stigma around the topic. In many cases, it is reported that the stigma is seen as devastating as the illness itself and a major barrier to sufferers seeking treatment.
The article differentiates between implicit and explicit stigmas noting that implicit stigmas come in the form of negative comments or observations about the behavior of a person with mental illness, while explicit stigma pertains to comments made directly about a person’s mental illness.
The article also explores how mental illness stigma is avoided, to which many participants responded that they simply do not disclose information about their illness to others. However, not disclosing one’s mental illness can act as a barrier to seeking treatment as social support from people who are aware and supportive may encourage mental wellness. The article reveals how psychiatric patients who have strong social support were significantly more likely to comply with treatment.
The study concluded that the burdens created through stigma as well as the strategy of non-disclosure about one’s mental health often led to self-seclusion and anti-social behavior, which can subsequently exacerbate symptoms and impede the treatment-seeking process.
Researchers hope that this study will assist policy makers, educators, and providers in developing an appropriate response to mental health stigma. They encourage a holistic approach to the subject, which suggests more education about the causes of mental health problems to include a medical point of view.
“In the future, I would like to see the State of Qatar develop programs that help people with mental illness discover the resources to achieve their goals, and celebrate their strengths and resilience,” notes Dr. Hickey. “What they want more than anything is an opportunity to contribute to their family and community.”
The article can be accessed at QScience.com along with thousands of other academic journals, conference proceedings and books, available free to the public.