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‘Social stigma’ still attached to mental health issues for Arab women

While the UAE does not have any formal method of collecting information on mental health disorders, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the second leading contributor to poor health and shorter lifespan among people between the ages of 15 and 44.

Experts at the upcoming Obs-Gyne Exhibition & Congress, taking place from the 1-3 April at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre, will discuss this issue of depression among women in the Middle East, as well as appropriate screening and treatment for methods for this health concern. For the second year, Informa Exhibitions is partnering with the Arab Association of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Societies (AAOGS) drawing more than 100 regional and international speakers from around the world. 

According to Dr. Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and MD at The LightHouse Arabia, and speaker at the Obs-Gyne Exhibition & Congress, the ‘social stigma’ associated with going to see a mental health professional still acts as a strong deterrent for women seeking treatment for their emotional issues.

“The Arab and Asian world is very private with religion playing a strong mediating role in coping with mental health issues. For some, it is not considered to be acceptable to discuss family problems with an 'outsider'. Women will often go to primary care physicians to report psychosomatic symptoms who will then refer them to psychiatrists or psychologist as it is much easier and more socially acceptable to admit that there is something wrong with the body then it is to admit that they need help coping,” said Dr Afridi.

Lack of awareness is the main reason why women in the Arab world do not seek appropriate treatment for symptoms of depression. “Many women are unaware of the different ways that depression can present itself, and, being away from their support systems can often leave them alone to cope with life's challenges. Stress is also a major issue trigger as women try to adhere to traditional gender definitions and while juggling the high demands of family, work, and social responsibilities,” Dr. Afridi explained.

According to Dr. Afridi, prescribing anti-depressants is only an effective form of treatment when the individual is treated holistically. “Antidepressants may alleviate the symptoms of depression; however, they will not treat the life choices and patterns that the person is involved in that resulted in the depression. Emotional health is very important as the patient must learn how to heal their wounds, learn their relational style, achieve work-life balance, know what their impact is on those around them, take accountability for their role in their depression, and feel empowered to make life changes,” she explained.

Running alongside the congress is an exhibition that offers a platform to present the latest technologies and product launches from manufacturers and distributors to a highly specialised audience including gynaecologists, nurses, obstetricians, oncologists, sonographers and surgeons amongst others.

As Simon Page, Managing Director – Life Sciences, Informa Exhibitions, explained: “At Obs-Gyne 2012, more 50 exhibiting companies from 10 countries will showcases healthcare technology and innovation in the obs-gyne medical sector including ultrasound diagnostics equipment, scanners, sensors, cryosurgery instrument, and prescription and non-prescription medicine.”

For more information on Obs-Gyne Exhibition & Congress visit