In Kuwait, number of psychiatric physicians is less than 84 in a country of nearly 4.5 million1. This statistic is especially concerning given that common mental health disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorders, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorders and social anxiety disorders may affect up to 15% of the population at any one time. They vary considerably in their severity, but all these conditions can be associated with significant long-term disability. About 50% of all individuals with psychiatric illnesses never seek treatment due to factors related to the negative perception of mental disorders and stigma.
When people do seek help for mental disorders it's mostly from clinicians not trained in mental health. In Kuwait, the incidence of depression, anxiety disorders and somatic symptoms disorders is 56%, 47% and 68% respectively among patients visiting primary care centres for general clinics2. That's why it is important to educate physicians in the primary health care system and increase their skills in the recognition of mental disorders. The goal is build capacity within physicians to provide appropriate treatment at the right time and address this gap between patients with psychiatric illnesses and the psychiatric health services in Kuwait.
Mental health and well-being is everybody’s business. It affects every family in Kuwait and it can only be improved if co-ordinated action is taken across all levels of the government services. To address the treatment gap, the Primary Health Care mental health team in the capital health district in Kuwait aimed to promote and improve the knowledge and skills of primary care physicians who worked with people in distress. The programme involved mental health promotion and prevention, with a focus on intervening early including:
- Creating primary mental health clinics run by family physicians with mental health training
- Continue education programs integrating psychiatric knowledge in primary care together with clinical training
- Develop and implement public Awareness Campaigns to increase public awareness regarding mental health conditions and reduce the stigma associated with people receiving care.
- Increase the access and availability of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications in primary care centres