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Doctors from across Middle East meet in Abu Dhabi

One-Day Event in Abu Dhabi Aims to raise awareness of depression and other mental health problems

More than 200 psychiatrists from across the Middle East and Arab world attended the third Global Expert Meeting on Brain Diseases, taking place in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The event covered the effect of depression on public health.

The one-day conference was organized by Lundbeck, the specialized pharmaceutical company focusing on brain disease, and included presentations by eminent international psychiatrists as well as senior doctors from across the UAE, including Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi’s flagship hospital.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the global disease burden, with about 200 million workdays lost to depression each year in the US alone. UAE figures suggest that 4 to 5 percent of the population suffer from clinical depression, while in Qatar as many as one in five people are affected by mental health issues at any point in time.

The WHO estimates that fewer than 25% of patients with depression have access to appropriate treatment options, and existing treatments – including currently available anti-depressants – are not always effective even when properly prescribed.

“The prevalence of depression worldwide is extremely high and depression is a burden on patients’ health and on the economy,” said Dr. Tarek Darwish, consultant psychiatrist and chair of the first session of the meeting. “Mental health is an important issue for us all and one that needs to be constantly revisited. The presence of these distinguished and established speakers will enrich the field of psychiatry in the UAE and provide a focus on this very important issue.”

Renowned International speakers at the Global Expert Meeting include: Stephen Stahl, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, School of Medicine; David Baldwin, Professor of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton; and Michael Thase, Professor of Psychiatry, Physician 1, Philadelphia VA Medical Center.

Professor Baldwin gave presentations on rates of comorbidity (simultaneous presentation) of anxiety disorders and depression and treatment options for the conditions, which has been documented as high in many studies.

The presence of comorbidity has been shown to have a negative impact on treatment, including elevated rates of suicidal behavior – sometimes five times greater than those without comorbid disorders, according to a recent study.

Professor Thase talked about aspects of mood disorders under the American Medical Association’s five guidelines for diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, and also gave a workshop on how to address non-responsive issues, while Professor Stahl gave presentations on advances in psychopharmacology related to mood disorders and genetics and personalised medicine.

Other sessions at the event included an overview of the mental health services in the UAE and the role of social media in healthcare.

“The serious health and economic implications of depression and mental health issues are still not fully recognised and responses remain inadequate. There is an urgent need for public health and employment policies to give higher priority to mental health issues and to raise awareness of this,” said Emad Wageeh, Regional Marketing Director for Lundbeck. “Mental health problems generate huge costs not only for healthcare systems but for society more generally.”

According to the European Brain Council, the total annual tangible cost of depression in Europe was an estimated 92 billion Euros in 2010. Depression is the most costly brain disorder, with a cost equal to 1% of EU GDP.