MIDDLE EAST — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia urgently need additional psychiatric beds to meet the growing demand for mental health services. 

According to Knight Frank MEA’s Healthcare division’s latest Mental Health Report, an investment budget of US$4.3 billion is required to fulfill the demand for 16,301 psychiatric beds in the region.

The UAE’s population is expected to reach nearly 11 million by 2030, and Saudi Arabia’s population is projected to reach 43 million. 

Both countries require additional inpatient beds for mental health to cater to the needs of their expanding populations. 

To meet the density levels of countries with developed health infrastructure, the UAE needs 3,381 additional beds, while Saudi Arabia requires 12,920 beds.

The young demographic profile of both countries, coupled with societal changes and advancements, increases the risk of mental and psychiatric health conditions, especially among individuals aged 20-39. 

Moreover, by 2030, the region is expected to experience a threefold increase in the number of people aged over 60, who often require such care.

Dr. Gireesh Kumar, Associate Partner, Strategy and Consultancy – Healthcare, Knight Frank MEA, emphasized the disparity in the region’s availability of mental health services and facilities.

 Incidence rates of conditions such as anxiety and depression are higher in KSA and on par in the UAE when compared to the UK. 

“However, in terms of infrastructure, KSA and UAE have a psychiatry bed density of 14.0 and 18.4 beds per 100,000 population, respectively, compared to 36.9 beds per 100,000 population in the UK. 

“This highlights the disparity in the availability of mental health services and facilities in the region.”

Shehzad Jamal, Partner, Strategy and Consultancy, Knight Frank MEA, added that the UAE introduced mental health services in 1980, and today, mental health is a key performance indicator in the UAE National Agenda.

“Looking ahead, we need to make mental health services more accessible and affordable, streamline regulatory processes to ensure we have enough talent and resources, and invest in strong infrastructure. 

“This includes investing in digital technology for mental health, which has become more popular since Covid-19. 

It’s also crucial to fight the stigma around mental health so people can seek the help they need without fear or hesitation.”

The UAE has only one dedicated mental health facility serving the entire population, while in Saudi Arabia, there are limited psychiatric clinics and inpatient facilities, primarily catering to Saudi nationals. 

The report highlights the need for proactive solutions to address the challenges of affordability, stringent regulations, inadequate infrastructure, and stigma associated with mental illness.

The Middle East needs to invest in mental health services to reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with mental health disorders. 

The governments of the UAE and Saudi Arabia have initiated programs to improve mental health care, but more needs to be done to meet the growing demand for services.

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