The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have partnered to host a comprehensive, accredited mental health skills course in the primary care setting. The programme was carried out with a participation of a wide group of experts and healthcare professionals.

The Mental Health Upskilling Programme 2022 included five interactive in-person workshops to help equip primary care physicians, nurses, and care coordinators with practical behavioral medicine therapeutic tools and techniques. Upon successful completion of the course and final evaluation, participants were issued a certificate and relevant CME credits.

Hind Mubarak Al Zaabi, Executive Director of Healthcare Facilities Sector from the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, said: “In line with the department’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the mental and physical wellbeing of Abu Dhabi’s population, we are pleased to endorse and facilitate similar initiatives that upskill the healthcare workforce in the emirate. More than ever before, we realise the importance of mental well-being and its long-term impact on the community.

“As the regulator of the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi, we are committed to improving the quality of life of our population and empowering healthcare providers to ensure the availability of an integrated healthcare system that offers world-class healthcare services.”

Dr. Vedrana Mladinal, Course Director and Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Associate Director of Counseling at NYUAD Health Center, said: “In alignment with DoH’s strategic plan to meet mental healthcare needs in the emirate, the course helps integrate mental healthcare services into the busy primary care office setting. The NYUAD Health Center’s holistic healthcare delivery model follows this principle by integrating specialised mental health care into primary care for students.”

The course structure includes in-person sessions, required readings, participation in real case discussions, and a final written evaluation. Some of the course topics include The pandemic of mental illness and need for an integrated model of care; Low-Intensity Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for depression; Suicide and self-harm risk assessment and safety planning; and Self-care and burnout prevention for primary care practitioner, among others. The course includes post-course follow-up and supervision.

Dr. Ghanem Al Hassani, Group Education Director from SEHA, said: “Primary care physicians are the professionals’ patients seek help from first. Therefore, we need to provide them with the tools to guide their decision-making as soon as they notice degradation in a patient’s behavior. Each session in the Mental Health Upskilling Programme 2022 will include an informative module focused on a high-yield behavioral medicine topic along with interactive elements and role plays and will be delivered by renowned names in the industry. It will help primary care physicians access the necessary resources to diagnose mental health conditions early on before they cause more complications for the patient.”

The Mental Health Upskilling Programme 2022 was conducted by experts in the field such as Dr. Vedrana Mladina, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Associate Director of Counseling at NYUAD Health Center, Dr. Ayaz Virji, Executive Medical Director of the Health Center at NYUAD, Dr. Tai R. Broach, Associate Professor of Practice in Psychology at Zayed University, Taregh Shaban, Lecturer in Psychology at the Department of Cognitive Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain.