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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Opinion: To tackle diabetes, GCC must address mental health challenges

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Last year, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain ranked amongst the top 10 countries with the highest diabetes rates in the world, according to the International Diabetes Association.

Nearly a quarter of residents in these countries live with the disease, which can increase the risk of health complications such as kidney disease and blindness, as well as shortened lifespans.

GCC countries have tried to tackle this epidemic by emphasizing the importance of nutrition and exercise. But understanding the mental health challenges associated with the disease should also be a factor, argues Mariam Al Romaithi, a psychology student at Zayed University, in an op-ed in the National.

Anxiety and depression are commonly diagnosed in diabetics, often because patients worry about coping with the disease. But, Al Romaithi cites that studies show depression can also lead to reduced physical activity and weight gain, which contribute to the onset of diabetes. She continues:

Whichever comes first, depression or diabetes, the relationship is not a good one. Repeatedly research has shown that depressed diabetics have poorer clinical outcomes, in rates of both amputation and mortality.

The bottom line is that depression greatly exacerbates diabetes, and treating the depression would improve the clinical management of diabetes. This is well-documented, and yet physical health and psychological health specialists often don’t talk, and may not even inhabit the same health care facility.

According to HMC, nearly a quarter of adult Qatari patients have exhibited signs of depression. The rate is the same among teens here and across the region, prompting some health officials to call for more attention to be placed on mental health awareness.

But the stigma associated with psychological problems and the notion that “one can simply rid themselves of depression through prayer alone” continues to persist, Qatari Nasser Al Naama recently argued in a column for JustHereQ. He concludes:

I think it is critical to begin a national dialogue to raise awareness about this growing epidemic that silently affects many of us. And with the State working towards providing better healthcare facilities, this issue ought to be at the forefront of their agenda.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Sriram Bala

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