Healthcare providers are known to serve patients and improve their quality of life, however addressing mental health issues of its own employees is often overlooked.

This can have a profound impact on both employees and the organisation’s bottom line. As Omnia Health observes World Mental Health Day on October 10, we speak to Maham Rasheed, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) licensed Clinical Psychologist, Nabta Health, to understand how mental health neglect affects financial and operations costs in healthcare business management in the UAE.

Rasheed explains that there is a shortage of ongoing research when it comes to the impact of mental health in the UAE, however based on findings from COVID case studies, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), discovered that the prevalence of mental health issues among the working population in Dubai was approximately 21 per cent.

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Nabta Health recently conducted its own research to shed more light on the topic. “Our findings revealed that not prioritising an employee’s mental health can have several negative consequences that hinder productivity and financial growth within healthcare businesses. This creates a domino effect across financial management, operational efficiency, morale, job satisfaction, productivity, patient satisfaction, standard of care, and may drive employees towards clinical malpractice,” says Rasheed.

Figures from PwC Middle East’s recent report titled, “Why GCC Governments Should Invest More in Mental Health,” highlighted that mental illness in the GCC region led to at least 3.7 million productive working days lost annually, which is equivalent to Dh13 billion loss in business.

“To the GCC economy, that translates to Dh48 billion per year. In addition, a recent survey by McKinsey indicated that two-thirds of GCC respondents reported symptoms of poor mental health and well-being or had a mental health condition at least once in their lives. This is a staggering number of mental health-related problems in healthcare businesses,” explains Rasheed.

To understand how healthcare businesses are affected, start with the employee. Chronic stress and anxiety may result in frequent sick leaves and medical consultations, resulting in increased healthcare costs and reduced productivity.

“It also means high turnover, and in some cases, legal costs. The World Health Organisation discovered that in the Middle East, mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability, and they account for 60 per cent of all healthcare costs, which are passed from insurance onto companies,” says the clinical psychologist.

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To overcome this challenge, mental health requires a holistic approach, explains Rasheed. Introducing mental health programmes that offer counselling workshops and resources to help employees manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues effectively is the first step. Secondly, to overcome stigma associated with mental health, it is important to educate and encourage staff to speak up and seek help without the fear of judgement.

Workplace flexibility is an important component as well. It provides struggling employees the opportunity to prioritise their well-being.

“Lastly, organisations should train managers and staff to recognise the signs of mental health issues. Employee assistance programmes should also be introduced. This should include support services to ensure employees have access to professional assistance when facing mental health difficulties,” she concludes.


Stigma about mental health

Dr. Mohammed Yousef, Specialist Psychiatrist at Aster Clinic, Muteena

Stigma affects health professionals’ desire to seek help or address mental health issues, which can result in an overreliance on self-treatment and low peer support. Initial reluctance to seek help may also result in decreased productivity and affect individual health.

In health facilities, the manifestation of stigma is widely documented ranging from outright denial of care and provision of substandard care. The seven types of stigmas are public, self, perceived, label, structural, health prevention, and associative. To prevent stigma among healthcare workers, leaders should know the facts, educate themselves and others about mental illness, focus on positive aspects, and provide the necessary support.



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