Virtual clinics to provide mental health services in Egypt


[القاهرة] The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population announced the launch of the first electronic national platform for mental health and addiction treatment in Egypt.

Under the auspices of the Ministry, launched Platform It is a local initiative, and this was announced on March 16, to provide its services free of charge to all age groups of Egyptians and non-Egyptians residing in Egypt.

In this regard, the General Secretariat for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment, the National Center for Health and Population Information in the Ministry, and the World Health Organization, a donor and funder, collaborated to establish the platform, with the University of British Columbia in Canada, a consultancy that participated in the development of an e-mental health strategy and training for therapists.

The initiative and the Thirteenth General Program of Work of the World Health Organization are consistent in terms of “ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages”, which can only be achieved by universal health coverage for all without discrimination.

Mental health is an integral part of WHO’s definition of health, and is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.

The platform’s services include psychological counseling sessions and psychological support with specialists, through virtual clinics that use the concept of telemedicine.

The platform also provides awareness services and educational content by providing scientific information on common disorders in general psychiatry and its specialized branches, such as child, adolescent and elderly psychiatry, and addiction.

The platform also deals with the symptoms of psychological crises facing patients and their families, and the mechanisms for dealing with them. It also presents the services available at the General Secretariat for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment, such as introducing the hospitals and centers affiliated with the Secretariat, locations of specialized clinics and awareness campaigns and their dates.

The initiative came within the framework of making mental health services available to all, especially with the lack of equivalence between human and financial resources on the one hand and the increasing demand for mental health services and addiction treatment on the other hand.

The main challenge in providing psychiatric services in remote areas and villages is the difficulty of accessing them, and digital psychotherapy offers an opportunity to deal with those who suffer from psychological problems and addictions in these areas.

The use of electronic services (digitization) will also contribute to obtaining high-quality, confidential and confidential counseling and psychological support. The platform will also help overcome stigma related to mental disorders in Egyptian society, correct misconceptions and provide sound information to all.

“This platform is a very good and commendable step,” according to Ihab El-Kharrat, a consultant psychiatrist and director of the Freedom Center for Mental Health and Addiction Treatment in Wadi El-Natrun in Egypt.

Al-Kharrat says to the network SciDev.Net“Scientific evidence strongly indicates that the results of psychotherapy through the Internet are equal to the results of traditional psychotherapy through face-to-face interviews, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy,” referring to study Published in 2020.

“The main challenge in providing mental health services in Egypt is the obstacles and difficulties facing the practice of providing non-medical mental health services.”

As someone who denounces, Al-Kharrat says: “The platform reflects an image as if everyone who will provide the service on it are psychiatrists, while in other countries psychotherapy and counseling are often provided by psychiatrists without a medical background.”

Good training, experience, or competence may be absent from the doctor in the field of psychotherapy, yet he is allowed to practice it without supervision or oversight. Therefore, Al-Kharrat comments: “Extreme difficulties are placed in front of graduates of arts from departments of psychology or psychological counseling, or those who have internationally recognized trainings. in these areas or in the field of counseling for addicts.”

But the launch of the platform is driving momentum to consider the lack of a clear mechanism for licensing addiction professionals and counselors; The absence of a mechanism for licensing social rehabilitation centers and considering them as medical rehabilitation centers may not take into account their specificity and the quality of services provided in them, in addition to the “exaggerated” requirements for establishing medical centers, according to Al-Kharrat.

This article was produced by the SciDev.Net Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa


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