Posted on September 08, 2014

As part of an ongoing campaign in support of Qatar’s National Mental Health Strategy, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Psychiatry Department is encouraging the general public to learn more about mental health and why it is equally as important as physical health. 

The World Health Organization says mental illness can affect anyone, of any age, in any social circumstances. According to the latest research in Qatar, one in five people will be affected by a mental illness at some stage of their life. The term mental illness is inclusive of a wide range of conditions, including anxiety and depression, which are two of the most common. Dr. Hazem Hashem, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at HMC, stressed that people must recognize mental health is something that should be taken seriously through making adaptations to our life to promote good mental health – just as we do with physical health.

“Over the last ten years, the trend of assuming responsibility for our own health has grown dramatically; many people take control of their own health by making healthier choices about food, stopping smoking and participating in regular exercise, because they recognize that this is beneficial to their health,” explained Dr. Hashem adding: “What people often don’t realize is that there are things you can do to maintain your mental health and that physical and mental health are inextricably linked.”

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“There are a number of ‘risk factors’ linked to mental illness. Recognizing what the risk factors are can enable us to protect ourselves; for example, ensuring we get a good night’s sleep, getting regular exercise and eating healthily are not only recommendations for maintaining our weight, they also have numerous positive effects on our mind – so you have twice the reason to do it.”

Dr. Hashem emphasized that it is important for people to recognize that mental illness is something that can affect them at some stage of their life, and if it does, it is not a sign of weakness or anything to be ashamed of; it is simply an illness – like any other – that requires intervention. “People really need to know that mental illness is not something that happens to other people because of very specific circumstances – this is a dangerous misconception that leads people to feel ashamed, to not recognize that they are ill and, subsequently, to not seek treatment or help.”

Dr. Hashem added that there are many types of mental illness, ranging from mild, which are the most common, to severe. Regardless, it is important to recognize changes early and to seek advice. “Mental illness is treatable and manageable and recognizing your illness, or an escalation in certain symptoms, as early as possible and seeking advice or treatment is absolutely the best way of getting better.” 

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