Posted on April 15, 2018

The Sidra Medicine Child and Adolescent Psychiatry team has undertaken a robust community engagement program for 2018 to complement its pediatric and adolescent mental health services.

Over the coming months, the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry team will be attending several school and community events to raise awareness of mental health topics and ways in which Sidra Medicine experts can help. These events include the 4th Annual Symposium of Community Mental Health Services in Qatar on 19 April; the Renaud Academy’s workshop on "Autism: Seeing the Spectrum differently" on 25 April and a joint one day symposium in collaboration with American School of Doha. This is in addition to the presentation Qatar Foundation (QF) school meetings where staff from all QF schools come together to share expertise.   

Highlighted in a recent Northwestern University in Qatar study on “Health Information and Monitoring Among Qatari Adolescents” as an area where more accurate resources are needed in Qatar, adolescent mental health is one of the core services offered as part of Sidra Medicine’s approach to the care of children and young people.

One of the key messages the team hopes to share with the community is the need for more awareness and education about teen depression. Depression is one of the most common mental health problems among adolescents and begins during early teenage years. It is a biological disorder that is triggered by external events, making adolescents especially vulnerable as they are going through hormonal changes, increased pressure and expectations associated with adulthood. By the end of their teen years, 20 percent of adolescents would have experienced at least one depressive episode.

Depression can manifest through both physical and mental symptoms, including headaches, indigestion, appetite and weight changes, sleeping too much or lack of sleep, anxiety, nervousness, tearfulness, feelings of hopelessness, problems in attention and concentration, losing enjoyment in activities, isolation and sadness. Untreated depression can lead to a slew of serious issues, including substance abuse, academic failure, bullying (30 percent for those bullied and 19 percent for those doing the bullying), eating and other disorders and suicide.

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Depression is treatable if patients seek help and Sidra Medicine is committed to ensuring that parents, family members, teachers, school counsellors and others are aware of the signs and treatment options available to them in Qatar. Dr. Ahsan Nazeer, Division Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine, suggested that parents should look for changes in function and behavior. This includes a drop in grades, increased incidents of social conflict, withdrawal from the social scene and patterns of anger and irritability.

He added: “It is crucial to be aware of these signs and speak with your children. When your child knows they are being heard, they are more likely to open up. This also gives parents a greater chance to positively intervene and establish the best form of treatment with their healthcare provider. In addition to therapy and medication, which should be advised by a trained and licensed physician, complementary life changes, including regular sleep patterns, a healthy diet and exercise, have been shown to improve depressive symptoms.”

Referrals to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine can be initiated by a School Counselor by completing a Sidra Medicine referral form. School counselors can email [email protected] to request for more details.

Sidra Medicine’s community outreach efforts complement its Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) inpatient consult team, which offers the first such comprehensive service for children and young people in the Middle East. The team provides care to those admitted to medical, surgical and intensive care units. Services include assessment and treatment recommendations of complex co-occurring medical and psychiatric disorders such as mood disorders, suicidal thoughts or attempts, behavioral problems and adjustment to chronic medical illnesses.

To provide the best care, multidisciplinary teams that include child psychiatrists, psychologists and residents ensure a holistic and individualized approach. As a regional center of excellence and a leading pediatric hospital in the Middle East, Sidra Medicine will also take part in the 49th Middle East Medical Assembly in Lebanon on 19 April dedicated to “Mental Health Across the Lifespan.” Chair of the Department of Psychiatry Dr. Waqar Azeem and Division Chief for Adult Psychiatry for Women’s Mental Health Dr. Felice Watt will participate in the conference.

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