A qualitative exploration of mental health knowledge among pediatric health professionals in the United Arab Emirates

Nabeel Al-Yateem, Rachel Rossiter, Muhammad Arsyad Subu, Shameran Slewa-Younan, Syed Azizur Rahman, Jacqueline Maria Dias, Amina Al-Mazouqi

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Background Mental health literacy (MHL) is an essential competency for all healthcare professionals. In the United Arab Emirates, previous studies reported a low level of MHL among healthcare professionals working with vulnerable populations such as children and adolescents with chronic illnesses. Further in-depth exploration is necessary to build understanding of beliefs and knowledge about mental illness among pediatric health professionals. Methods Written narratives exploring mental health knowledge were collected from pediatric nurses and analyzed using content analysis. These written narratives were extracted from responses to open-ended questions embedded in a questionnaire completed as part of previous studies. The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research were followed in reporting this study. Results The overarching theme that emerged from the data was that nurses struggled to negotiate the complexities of psychological distress and mental illness. Two overlapping sub-themes were identified: (1) professional knowledge was incomplete, confused, and lacking in clarity and (2) professional knowledge was impacted by cultural beliefs and stigma. A third sub-theme reflected how participants identified with others’ suffering and felt powerless to help themselves or others. Participants described stress and mental exhaustion. Conclusions Participants’ narratives were characterized by struggles arising from insufficient knowledge, confusion, and deeply-held cultural and religious beliefs. Therefore, they were unable to resolve the conflict between professional knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about mental illness and stigma arising from cultural and religious beliefs/attitudes. Culturally-specific education is needed for healthcare professionals that addresses contextual, cultural, and religious factors impacting on stigma while actively supporting the healthcare workforce and enabling access to mental health services.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0266224
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2022


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