Posted on July 27, 2015

In view of the stress felt by expatriate workers who have to live away from their families for long durations, some residents have called for counselling centres across the country, especially in areas with a high concentration of single workers, said Gulf Times. Besides low-income workers, many middle-income expatriates - particularly those facing financial problems - may also require psychological support, say residents. 

The counselling centres should be staffed by specialists who can effectively address the problems faced by workers, including depression and stress, they pointed out. “As there has been a huge increase in the number of workers in recent years and many more are expected to come in the next few years, there should be adequate facilities to cater to the psychological needs of expatriate workers, a majority of whom is living here without families,” said an engineer working on a major infrastructure project in north Doha.

In Qatar, depression affected about 18% of the population, according to earlier reports. Cases of suicide involving expatriate workers are also reported at times.Highlighting the need to open counselling centres for single workers, some long-time Qatar residents said factors such as living away from family, unsatisfactory working and living conditions and financial constraints could lead to mental health issues such as depression and stress, which may drive people to the extreme step of taking their lives. 

Referring to suicide cases and the need for counselling, a medical expert recently said: “If some of those people had access to proper counselling services, they might not have ended their lives all of a sudden.” The doctor made the observation while making a presentation on the health conditions of workers at a conference some time ago.

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Among those needed psychological support are also some small-time entrepreneurs who moved to Qatar from neighbouring GCC states hoping to benefit from the economic boom in the country. Though they were able to get some contracts, many of these people became bankrupt when the projects they were working on did not make the desired progress. Several of them had borrowed money from lenders at high interest rates to settle their dues, particularly labour salaries. Community members told Gulf Times that some of these people are scared to venture out of their homes due to unmet financial commitments.

The situation could further deteriorate for such people, resulting in mental health issues, if adequate psychological support is not provided to them on time, say the community members. There are also contractors and traders who have borrowed heavily from banks and “parallel financiers” and are now finding it hard to repay the loans. A lot of things can go wrong for small time businessmen who have no backup mechanism to bolster them if payment is delayed in one of their dealings. They are under tremendous pressure and require suitable counselling.

“The establishment of counselling centres for people of different communities would certainly go a long way in addressing some of the major psychological problems by expatriates,” said a senior social activist in the Indian community. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, he suggested, should consider the opening of such centres at the earliest. Speaking to Gulf Times during a recent visit to Doha, Dr Jyothi Arayambath, psychiatrist at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and managing trustee, Mental Health Action Trust, had said social cohesion among members of the expatriate community could also be a protective factor in mental illness cases.