With its chic urban architecture, tax-free salaries and coastal beauty, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Dubai is as close to heaven on earth as you could ever experience.
However, Dubai isn’t immune to today’s modern world. Many leading doctors in Dubai have cited loneliness, isolation and an ultra-competitive job market as taking their toll on the expat workforce – with many now at risk of suffering from the sting of depression.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the leading cause of health and disability globally. It’s believed that as many as 300 million people suffer from depression globally – an increase of 18% in just 10 short years. *
In 2015, it was estimated that as many as 4-5% of the UAE population suffer from depression. Now, this figure may not appear to be too concerning, however the statistic is increasing year-on-year. What is, perhaps, more alarming is that fewer than 25% of patients in the UAE have access to appropriate treatment options, including expats. *
The Causes of Depression in Expats
Leading mental health experts agree that enjoying close relationships with family and friends, having a strong emotional support system, and feeling part of something are three of the primary factors that contribute to sound mental health.
Expats can struggle to form close relationships with people when they first move abroad. Most every aspect of their lives is different to what they’re used to. It can take some time to get used to a new lifestyle and culture. This has been documented as a reason for expats feeling homesick and, in some cases, can even evolve into depression.
The expat society in Dubai also has additional emotional challenges to cope with. The drop and ongoing uncertainty in oil prices can make people feel vulnerable to unemployment. Many believe that working extremely long hours is necessary for vocational security. This results in very little time to relax and unwind.
Another primary cause of depression in expats is whether the choice to emigrate has benefitted their family. Many parents suffer from prolonged worries about the level of education that their children receive and if their lives in a foreign country are having an adverse effect on their children.
When combined with the isolation felt, the risk of long-term mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety can be alarming. Many expats who have previously enjoyed an active social life before emigrating find it difficult to establish themselves socially have suffered, growing increasingly isolated from their peers.
The Help Available
Fortunately for expats suffering from depression, and related mental health struggles, there is help available to them.
Out of the Blues was started by Andrea Allen, a British mother of two living in Dubai. After suffering from postnatal depression (PND) following the birth of her children, Andrea started a dedicated non-profit support group for new mothers suffering from PND.
Today, the group holds weekly meetings in Dubai and offers ongoing support to expats and locals. Despite initially focusing on PND, the group has since expanded and today provides ongoing support for anyone suffering from depression.
Andrea acknowledges how difficult it can be to turn to even your closest friend and talk about any mental health problems that you may be experiencing. She also believes that it’s imperative to raise more awareness in the UAE about depression and its long-term effects to make sure that appropriate measures of support and care are taken to those that need them the most.
Health 4 Happiness is a dedicated lifestyle blog that provides comprehensive and comforting advice to everyone on every aspect of health and well-being. We understand how important health is to happiness and want everyone to reap the benefits of a healthy and happy life.
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