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Mental health can feel like a taboo subject for men living in Dubai. It can be something that people pretend doesn’t exist, but something that worsens over time until it becomes intolerable.

It is important for men to understand that there is help available in Dubai, and their mental health isn’t something they should attempt to ignore or suffer with alone. By talking to a mental health professional, symptoms can be alleviated and recovery can be achieved.

Staying silent about mental health

Men and women experience similar mental disorders, but their willingness to talk about emotions and feelings can be very different.

This can result in men and women dealing with dramatically different symptoms. For example, men with depression or an anxiety disorder often try to hide their emotions and this can cause them to appear angry or aggressive, whereas women can often express sadness more easily. 

Men's mental health problems could be described as a silent crisis.

In Dubai, men are expected to be tough and strong. Other cultures are also very quick to punish or marginalise gender deviation in men, where they consider weakness to be unmanly. This ‘code governing men’s behaviour is one of the prime barriers preventing men from speaking up and seeking help for their mental health.

Even in the UK and according to UK-based MaleHealth.com, men can feel that it would be “weak and unmanly to admit to feelings of despair.” As it’s easier for men to acknowledge physical symptoms, rather than emotional ones, their mental health problems often go un-diagnosed. 

Men most at risk of mental ill health in Dubai

Moving to a new environment and country can be very difficult. In Dubai, expats make up 85% of the population.

While living in a different country has many advantages, the differences in language, customs, food and weather can be a ‘culture shock’ for many expats, who find the experience psychologically and physically challenging.

Moving away from the support of family and friends can cause a level of stress that prevents a person from being able to enjoy their new culture and diversity. This in turn can cause psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety that require professional help.

Recent studies have shown that depression and anxiety are higher in expats. The factors that have been shown to increase such problems include the following:

  • Occupational anxieties
  • Home country worries
  • Difficulty adjusting to the new culture
  • Financial difficulties

Some people resort to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. While this provides short term relief, it can make the problem worse in the long run. Research indicates that many men engage in substance abuse in response to stressful life transitions such as unemployment and divorce.

What would you say to a man who is struggling to cope as a result of the pressures they face?

Many men come to Dubai for work and it is very important for them to maintain a good work-life balance. This can help to cushion the stress of their job. Talking with trusted people is also a good way to find solutions to any problems.

However, if a person’s mental health continues to worsen, and starts to affect work and social functioning, it is important that they don’t shy away from seeking support from mental health professionals. 

If you would like to find out more about our treatments, which include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and family therapy, you can make an enquiry online. If you would like to speak to someone in person, you can receive a telephone consultation by ringing (+971) 4 245 3800.

Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid, Consultant Psychiatrist

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid (MBChB, MRCPsych, PhD, Consultant Psychiatrist DHCC) in March 2019, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in March 2021. Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid is a distinguished consultant psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience in the field of psychiatry and mental health. He became a consultant psychiatrist in 2000 and has been the president-elect of the British Arab Psychiatric Association (BAPA) since 2014. View Dr Walid's full profile here.