The UAE has been working for years to promote the development of mental health services for the community. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted this need even more. And in the latest development, changes to UAE personal law have placed suicide and help from support groups back in the spotlight. Those who attempt suicide but survive will have counselling and psychological support, rather than face prosecution.
A recent study led by the World Health Organisation showed that depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
The problem is often exacerbated in the UAE as so many expatriates come from close-knit communities back home and face stress from living away from this support structure. Being away from home provides benefits from living in a multi-cultural environment, but also brings stresses related to a range of issues such as finance, work overload, health, loneliness, and family relationships.
Research shows that stressed employees are more likely to:
- Leave the company
- Take sick days
- Have a workplace accident
- Have a weak emotional connection to the workplace
Obtaining budget is rarely easy, but organisations need to look at the return on investment of a healthy, happy, and engaged employee who is more focused and productive.
Despite challenges, many companies now offer mental health support for employees as awareness and recognition of the problem grows in the UAE.
One solution is to outsource mental health support by engaging with a third-party health administrator, and setting up a hotline especially for employees in stressful situations, such as the loss of a loved one, to help them deal with issues as they arise.
There are several providers of such schemes in the UAE including:
- ICAS International (part of the AXA Insurance group)
- American Wellness Centre
- Thrive Wellbeing Centre
- Lighthouse Arabia
At a cost of approximately Dh120-Dh160 per year, per person, employees can access personal support hotlines, online health portals, and other services that extend to employees’ families. Often access is provided to professional counselling psychologists and legal financial experts, as well as to coaches and nutritionists.
For organisations who can afford an in-house provision, an employee welfare programme (EAP) may be the answer.
Typically, an EAP might include any of these services:
- Clinical or counselling psychologist assessment
- Face-to-face intervention counselling
- Health information
- Managerial/occupational health referral
- On-site training, briefings, and workshops
- Planned telephone counselling
The UAE Government has also set up centrally funded services, including a mental health helpline manned by over 30 specialists made up of counsellors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Run by the UAE National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing (NPHW), in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development, it was established to help people cope with stress, fear and anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic. Services include:
- Leaves Dubai, for women going through difficulties in marriage or divorce
- Mental Health UAE, an online directory and support network
- Safe Space, a free community including mental health support through events and other activities
If you see the value in taking care of your employees, and want support in managing medical benefits or outsourcing your employee services, why not take a look at HRBluSky, our UAE based HRMS offering cost-effective and customisable solutions to support your business.