Healthcare Services

Mental healthcare in Qatar

From societal attitudes and available services to getting insurance and more, here is all you need to know about mental healthcare in Qatar.

Qatar mental health
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By Valentine Marie

Updated 18-3-2024

Starting a new life in another country can be overwhelming. Therefore, it is vital to take care of one’s mental health. However, unfortunately, due to the cultural stigmatization of mental health problems in Qatar, it can be challenging to seek professional help. But while mental healthcare is not yet on the same level as other healthcare services in the country, it is improving.

This article will walk you through the ins and outs of mental health services in the country by explaining the following topics:

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Mental health in Qatar

Mental health disorders include various conditions, from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Generally, Qatari society considers mental health challenges to be taboo. In fact, many people in Arab cultures even attribute mental illness to supernatural causes, such as a punishment from God. So while one in five people in Qatar suffers from a mental illness, many are hesitant when it comes to seeking help.

qatar mental health: young, depressed man, looking out window

A study from 2020 also shows that many Qatari residents have insufficient education about mental illness, including its causes and symptoms. As a result, people struggling with their mental health are often stigmatized. Moreover, although Qatar doesn’t publish sufficient suicide or self-harm statistics, suicide attempts are a reality; especially among international men in their 30s. As a result, the Qatari government has made mental health awareness a priority.

Mental healthcare services in Qatar

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) oversees the healthcare system in Qatar, which includes most mental health services. However, even though accessing mental healthcare is still stigmatized, many services are available. The state-run Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) provide most services accessible through public insurance. These two corporations work together to cover mental healthcare for children, adolescents, adults, and senior citizens. Residents also have a choice of private clinics, such as Sidra Medicine.

Other mental health centers where international residents can easily access treatment include:

  • Weyak (Mental Health Friends Association) – this non-profit organization offers in-person, online, and telephone counseling
  • The International Medical Centre – offers a wide range of psychological and counseling services
  • Dr Aju’s Clinic – a consultant psychiatrist from the UK that treats patients with complicated psychiatric disorders, and offers couple and family therapy
  • Al Ahli Hospital – its psychiatric department offers various mental health services, including home visits

How to access mental health services in Qatar

Accessing public mental healthcare in Qatar is reasonably straightforward. For example, you can request a referral to the HMC services from your primary healthcare provider, hospital, counselor, or other health professionals. You will usually get an appointment within two weeks. Otherwise, you don’t need a referral for services through the PHCC, which focuses on non-urgent, mild to moderate mental health challenges. You can book an appointment at a PHCC support clinic to see a clinician.

woman thinking about calling helpline

If you have private insurance or prefer independent services, you’ll need to contact the provider directly. They will advise you on how best to get a referral for their services.  

Most importantly, if you are in crisis and need immediate assistance, you should go to the nearest hospital. And if you need advice, you can call the National Mental Health Helpline on 16000, select your language, and press 4 for mental health.

Insurance for mental healthcare in Qatar

Qatari citizens and residents can apply for a health card to access the HMC’s public healthcare facilities or hospitals. This also provides access to mental health services at discounted rates. How much you pay out-of-pocket will depend on the clinic and the services, so be sure to clarify this when researching facilities. Many people also purchase private insurance for more comprehensive cover and options.

Private clinics may be more expensive but have shorter waiting lists and cater to the international community. Often, you can access private insurance through your employer. Fortunately, there are several major private insurance providers in Qatar, including:

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists in Qatar

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists all work in the mental health field in Qatar. While these disciplines differ in expertise and therapeutic approaches, there is also significant overlap. For instance, a psychiatrist or psychologist may also have specialized in psychotherapy (talk therapy).

In Doha, you can use the Therapy Route portal to search for mental health professionals based on categories, such as profession, specialties, and language. However, in order to protect yourself, it’s a good idea to double-check that your chosen clinician is licensed with the Department of Health Professions (DHP). Most mental health clinicians also register with the Middle East Psychological Association (MEPA).

women in a group therapy session

Usually, a session will take 45 to 50 minutes. You’ll be able to book your next appointment after the session with reception, or you can set up an appointment schedule. Be sure to ask how much your insurance will cover as out-of-pocket costs can run anywhere from QAR 500 to QAR 800. Typically, you need to pay the costs upfront after your session and send the claim to your insurance company.

Notably, therapy sessions can be for individuals, couples, families, or groups.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry. They can diagnose and treat patients with mental illness and prescribe psychotropic medication. Usually, their treatment combines psychological therapies and general medical care, including monitoring how the prescription affects a patient’s health. Psychiatrists tend to treat patients with complex conditions; for example, severe depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Typically, there are six specialties in psychiatry, including:

Psychologists

A psychologist holds a master’s or doctorate in psychology but is not medically trained. They also diagnose and treat clients and patients with mental health issues, but cannot prescribe medications. The only exception is if a psychologist attained a postdoctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology. Usually, psychologists use talk therapies to treat patients struggling with anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities.

psychologist listening to a client in his practice

Specialties may include clinical, counseling, forensic, and health psychology.

Psychotherapists

A psychotherapist could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional who specializes in talk therapy to help clients manage stress, work on their relationships, or improve their emotional resilience.

Generally, talk therapies can include:

Before committing to therapy, it’s important to make sure that the practitioner is a good fit and that their fees are within your budget or covered by your insurance. You can ask for recommendations in your international circles to find an expat-friendly therapist. Examples of such clinicians include Serene Psychotherapy and Flourishing Minds. Alternatively, you can use HeliumDoc or Qatar Health & Medical Directory to search for English-speaking practitioners.

Drug and alcohol services in Qatar

You can only buy and consume alcohol at restaurants and hotels in Qatar. It is a crime to drink anywhere else in public or be intoxicated. Furthermore, you can only have alcohol at home if you purchase a liquor license. Likewise, the country has strict drug laws, and punishment for anyone caught with illegal substances is harsh.

As a result, people struggling with substance abuse may not feel comfortable seeking help. Moreover, drug and alcohol services in Qatar are limited. For instance, there is only one rehabilitation center in Doha called Naufar. The clinic is free for Qataris but will charge international patients and clients. Costs vary depending on the treatment and private insurance coverage. Therefore, be sure to check with your insurance what percentage, if any, they will cover before starting a program. Notably, if you want to seek help, you will need a referral from your doctor.

Services dealing with eating disorders in Qatar

People suffering from eating disorders can have distressing thoughts and emotions which severely impact their eating behavior. It is a serious condition that can harm them physically, psychologically, and socially. There are different types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and binge eating.

Sidra Medicine building in Doha, Qatar
Sidra Medicine private facility in Doha, Qatar

Unfortunately, Qatar is limited when it comes to professional expertise and services that support people with eating disorders. Consequently, finding help can be challenging. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can ask your doctor about treatment options.

Young people can access private adolescent health services at Sidra Medicine. Alternatively, the state-funded Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) offers eating disorder treatment programs. Waiting lists and out-of-pocket costs will depend on the service and the facility.

If you are looking for a support group, Overeaters Anonymous (OA) offers help with compulsive eating behavior, including bulimia and anorexia. There is no Qatar-specific website, but you can contact the organizer on 5512 7252 or [email protected].

Mental healthcare for people with severe mental health problems

If you are struggling with severe mental health challenges, you can consult your GP about your treatment options. For example, the HMC Mental Health Service runs community mental health clinics that offer inpatient care, home support, rehabilitation, and outpatient facilities. There is also a psychiatric daycare service for acute psychiatric cases who might need more intensive follow-up care than what is typically found in an outpatient program. This service supports the client’s mental health journey through structured programs, including talk and group therapy, regular outings, and life skills training.

Referrals typically come from the HMC’s Psychiatric Hospital or other mental health clinics. So, if you’re interested in knowing more, you should speak to your mental health provider. Conversely, if you – or someone you support – are struggling and may need admittance to the Psychiatry Hospital, you can call the hospital directly on 16060. A mental health professional can advise you and explain how to gain admission and what happens in the treatment program.

Just keep in mind that costs, waitlists, and insurance acceptance will depend on the facility and services accessed.

Children and young people’s mental healthcare in Qatar

In Qatar, mental healthcare for children and young people is still developing. That said, there are some excellent choices if your child needs help. The state-funded CAMHS provides support for young people living with anxiety and depression. It also works with neurodiverse children, who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and other learning disabilities, to help them negotiate a neurotypical world.

Furthermore, the private facility, Sidra Medicine, has an excellent CAMHS program. For instance, it treats children with obsessive hair-pulling, separation anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. Both these public and private providers have inpatient and outpatient facilities.

child mental healthcare, silhouette of boy sitting in front of window, looking out

Costs will depend on the services provided and your insurance coverage. You can approach teachers, therapists, and other health professionals for referrals. Even an emergency department can refer children and young people. However, there can be delays in getting treatment, ranging from a week to just over a month after your referral.

There are no state-wide school mental health services in Qatar. However, in 2019, the Qatar Foundation piloted the region’s first mental health initiative in schools. The Wellness Ambassador Program trained 11 students from three schools to be confidants and advocates for their peers’ mental health challenges. This program will eventually be extended. Most international schools in Qatar also have guidance counselors.

Mental healthcare services for special groups in Qatar

Some population groups in Qatar may have unique mental health challenges and needs. Unfortunately, although the LGBTQ+ community is one of the most vulnerable groups, there is no explicit mental health support for it in the country. Instead, the Qatari state continues to surveil and punish members of this group.

Other service providers that support particular sections of the society include:

  • Sidra Medicine’s psychiatry department offers children, adolescents, and perinatal mental health which focuses on pregnant women and new mothers
  • Enaya Specialized Care Center is HMC-affiliated and provides outpatient services for children and teenagers and a daycare program for women with long-term mental health challenges
  • HMC also offers older adult mental health programs that can combine with geriatric medical care
  • Mind Institute provides services for children and adults with special needs and disabilities
Qatar mental healthcare for special groups like pregnant women

You can access these services with a referral from your doctor or, in an emergency, through a hospital. Costs will vary based on the facility.

Prevention and education programs for mental health in Qatar

In a 2015 survey, 81% of respondents said that they would seek online mental health support. In response, the Qatari government launched the National Health Strategy with its digital portal, Your Mind Matters. This site aims to improve public awareness through information, resources, and events.

Subsequently, to celebrate World Mental Health Day, Widyan Qatar launched its social media campaign on 10 October 2021 to raise awareness, destigmatize stereotypes, and improve access to services. It is one of 20 organizations that collaborated with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) on the national mental health campaign, Are You OK?. This movement encourages Qatari society to discuss mental health openly and without judgment. Every month, each organization shares resources and information on its social media channels to reach as many people as possible.

Emergency support and crisis lines in Qatar

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call the national emergency number 999 or go to the nearest hospital. The hospital with be able to assess you and, if need be, admit or transfer you for inpatient mental health treatment.

Remember, if you need someone to talk to about your mental health, you can call the National Mental Health Helpline at 16000.

Useful resources