Looking for help for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues is only the first step. Sadly, several patients change their minds even before reaching a therapist’s office. Many give up, saying “the treatment is just too expensive”. Even those with exceptional health insurance coverage, out-of-pocket expenses are still reportedly high, thus keeping patients away from doctors.
“I had a mental breakdown one day. I didn’t realize I was depressed. Furthermore, we come from a conservative family, so going to a doctor for ‘mental treatment’ automatically meant you are a ‘mental patient’,” said T.S. Her husband and close friends, nevertheless, pushed her to get help. “When I called a therapy center in Dubai, I was stunned to learn it costs Dh850 for the first session and Dh650 for every session after that,” she said. With general insurance and a regular job as a schoolteacher, T.S. could not afford the treatment. At one point, T.S. went as far as talking to an astrologer and an occultist, yearning to feel better. After a second breakdown, she reached out to a therapist in Sri Lanka during a short trip back home. Now, she gets regular treatment via calls. Dr. Mohammed Yousef, a specialist psychiatrist at Aster Clinic, Al Muteena, said that unlike earlier, insurance companies are now accepting payments for psychiatric treatments. “I’ve been practicing in the UAE for 25 years. Previously, there were no provisions for insurance for mental illnesses. Still, today, it depends on the status of insurance. “Sometimes, companies agree to pay for everything from consultations to investigation and medication,” said Yousef.
One’s psychiatric healthcare coverage largely depends on the insurance companies, the level of coverage, and the diagnosis. Though treatment costs seem prohibitive, some mental health professionals agree that the perception of receiving psychiatric healthcare in the UAE has altered drastically over the years. The stigma and the cultural barriers and boundaries surrounding therapy have been disappearing, prompting the industry to review the current policies. Mental wellbeing is one of the key performance indicators and priority areas outlined in the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021.