Mental Health Forum Summary

Sandigan Kuwait Domestic Workers Association (SKDWA) hosted a Mental Health Forum on Friday the 22ndof April in partnership with the Integrated Community Center for Social Counselling and the Ethiopian Domestic Worker Association (EDWA). The forum was aimed at providing mental health training to trainers and case workers, so that they are well-equipped with understanding the symptoms, signs, and consequences of mental illnesses that migrant domestic workers are prone to. This forum was important because it provides important information on assessment before treatment and referral to professionals. The forum was led by Ben, a Sandigan member, and guest speakers included The KBPsych Resident Club very own: Dr. Dalal, Dr. Zarah, Dr. Mohammad, and Dr. Ibrahim. 

Firstly, Dr. Dalal gave an overview on the symptoms, signs, and treatment of depression. After differentiating between sadness and depression, Dr. Dalal outlined the risk factors that lead to a higher risk of depression, such as: being a married woman between the ages of 20 – 50 years old. The symptoms and red flags of depression differ from person to person, but also depending on age group – Dr. Dalal explained that children’s symptoms of depression reveal as irritability, and physical complaints such as constipation. Symptoms can range from reduced energy, changes in appetite to suicidal ideations. The assessment is done through a Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), with the highest score being 27. There are different routes that one can take if diagnosed with depression, such as psychotherapy and/or medication, depending on the severity of the depression. 

Next, Dr. Mohammad talked about bipolar mood disorder, which is characterized by severe mood swings that can last multiple weeks at a time. Dr. Mohammad also talked about the key indicators of these mood swings and symptoms loved ones should watch out for. In the case of mania, for example, the patient could struggle with sleep, make odd impulsive decisions, and/or recklessly spend money. Dr. Mohammad stated the treatment involves self-education and monitoring, social support, psychological therapy, and medications. Psychological therapy has many options and are also open for individuals in the patient’s life, like couples’ therapy and family meetings, as BMD can affect relationships. 

Dr. Zarah then went on to discuss schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder that affects thinking and feeling, causing a confusion between reality and imagination. Genetic and environmental factors play a role in determining whether a person is at a risk for schizophrenia. Dr. Zarah also highlighted that traumatic situations and even cannabis use can increase risk in patients who are genetically vulnerable to schizophrenia. Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, such as visual and auditory. Less obvious symptoms include disorganized thoughts, behavior and speech. Treatment involves medication, and though cognitive symptoms can progress in a short period of time, Dr. Zarah warns that symptoms that are less obvious can sometimes take years before noticing. 

Lastly, Dr. Ibrahim presented anxiety disorders. He began by discussing the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders. Dr. Ibrahim stated that, ‘’feeling anxious is part of being human’’, while being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is due to anxiousness getting in the way of functioning through daily life and responsibilities. He also highlighted the importance of ruling out medical conditions, intoxication or withdrawal from substances, when examining panic attacks. Dr. Ibrahim also pointed out a misconception, stating that one can have panic attacks without it being a panic disorder. Other anxiety disorders include agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety. Interestingly enough, parent overprotectiveness is a risk factor to developing generalized anxiety as an adult. As each anxiety disorder is different, treatments differ as well. However, in most cases, CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) is a key treatment. In cases of social anxiety and phobias, exposure therapy is also recommended. Medication can be prescribed in specific cases, as diagnosed by a professional. The guest speakers also commented on the overlapping of symptoms, and the presence of comorbid disorders. Dr. Dalal noted, ‘’if you’re depressed, you have a 60% chance of having anxiety’’. 

All in all, it was a very informative and therapeutic talk. The forum was eye-opening, as it provided tools for trainers and case workers to identify and assess mental health struggles in domestic workers before referral to a professional. The audience shared concerns and struggles, as migrant workers can feel alienated, stressed, and isolation from wider family and community. Audience members also shared stories of success and overcoming mental health obstacles such as social anxiety through exposure. Ayah stated the importance of little steps, and how encouraging it is in a community setting that SKDWA provides. One of the main discussions were on the links between a domestic workers health and residency, where the guest speakers assured that domestic workers mental health is confidential, and in almost all cases would not harm her residency as that is involved with the Ministry of Interior. Discussions on how to be supportive of individuals with mental health disorders were helpful. Grace spoke on how reassuring the talk was and how important it is to view those affected by mental health ‘’not as patients but as partners’’. Founding Chairperson and Head Volunteer of Sandigan, Ann Abunda, stated how important it is to understand mental health disorders and categories, and ‘’learn terms that we were previously scared of’’ as stigma is a major inhibitor of opening up about mental wellbeing. 

If you or anyone you know are struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder, reach out to loved ones, share your concerns, and seek help from a professional.

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