Adolescent Depression in the United Arab Emirates


Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions globally, affecting an estimated 5% of the world’s population.[1] However, depression is a major problem in the United Arab Emirates, and many young people struggle with this condition.

Depression in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has the highest regional level of depression, with one in every four people experiencing mental health concerns. Some of the most common diagnoses include depression and anxiety, with 5.1% of the population reaching the clinical criteria for diagnosis.

Depression was the number one cause of visits to a mental health practitioner or psychiatrist in Dubai, according to research undertaken by Zayed University. The average age on the first visit for mental health treatment for depression was 15 years old. Young people in the UAE diagnosed with Bipolar I or II are most likely to experience their first severe depressive episode before the age of 15.

Whilst seeking help for mental health concerns is more commonplace than ever before, families and young people are cautious and often not forthcoming in discussing their concerns with mental health services.

Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe and can be different for everyone. The most common symptoms for young adults can include:

  • Feeling irritable and upset often
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Being unable to concentrate in school
  • Having intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness

Trauma and Depression

Children, teenagers, and young adults can experience trauma at any point in their lives. Complete or developmental trauma is strongly linked to various mental health conditions and a lifetime prevalence of mental health concerns. Many experiences can trigger a trauma response in young people, including:

  • Bullying
  • Parental divorce or death
  • Witnessing a disaster
  • Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

After experiencing trauma, young adults may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause them to experience flashbacks of traumatic events and have panic attacks. Many symptoms of depression and PTSD overlap, and it is not uncommon for the two conditions to co-occur alongside one another.

Depression and Substance Abuse

Addiction to substances can happen wherever you are globally, and the UAE is no different. Despite strict zero-tolerance drug laws, young people and teenagers can still find themselves in trouble with substance use.

Unfortunately, these laws can prevent young people from reaching out for help and support, as they fear the problems they and their families may face. This fear prevents both ex-pats and nationals from accessing their medical and clinical needs for detox treatment and beyond.

Addiction is most usually not a stand-alone issue for teens and young people. Co-occurring mental health conditions can include depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and many more conditions.

Substance abuse in the UAE affects both boys and girls. The Wave provides addiction programmes and accepts young people concerned about their substance abuse and who would benefit from a change of environment in which to heal and revocation.  

Treatment for Depression

Researchers have discovered that young people in the UAE are least likely to attend mental health specialist clinics. Furthermore, families and young people looking for urgent assistance for mental or behavioural health or those seeking addiction treatment are more likely to travel abroad for psychiatric treatment.

Treatment options in the Emirates have increased during the past few years; however, there are still significant gaps in service provision, particularly for residential and inpatient care for complex needs, detox and moderate to high-risk children, adolescents, and teenagers.

Young people can often benefit from residential treatment or therapeutic boarding environments. A safe and secure place to call home can be a significant help whilst working on the complex issues following trauma exposure. There are many benefits to residential treatment for depression, including:

  • Around-the-clock support – residential treatment programmes for depression provide consistent, on-demand support for young adults.
  • Structured programmes – residential programmes provide personalised, structured treatment plans for young adults with therapy and activities tailored to their specific needs.
  • Removal of triggers – young people can encounter many triggers in their daily lives. Attending residential treatment can effectively remove these triggers and allow them the breathing room to focus on getting better.

Our team at The Wave is trauma-focused. Every team member is trained in using evidence-based treatments for trauma in children, adolescents and young people. We pride ourselves in providing thorough care for each young person who comes to stay with us, and the high completion rate of our programmes reflects the combined dedication of our clients and our team.

Our Team

The Wave is delighted to partner with the most exceptional psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists in the United Arab Emirates. We can assist our families in the Emirates with the most appropriate professional team to meet their needs, whether in person or online, choosing from an extensive range of suitably qualified professionals.

Dr. Rasyid, Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director at The Wave Young Adults, Kuala Lumpur, has an exceptional and growing relationship with the Psychiatry and Paediatric community in Dubai and takes referrals from professionals for admission into The  Wave Programmes.

Malek Yassin, our Treatment Director at The Wave, is a Psychotherapist and Certified Child & Adolescent Trauma Professional and a Fellow of APPCH (U.K). He is EMDR trained (EMDRIA), a Senior Accredited Addiction Professional and has sixteen years of experience in mental health care, assisting families with the complexities of psychiatric illness. Malek has a specialist interest in antisocial personality disorders with substance use disorder and is currently studying mentalisation based treatment (MBT) with The Anna Freud Centre in London.


Depression is a mental health condition that affects young adults worldwide but is prevalent in the United Arab Emirates. The causes of depression are varied, and there is often not one particular issue. No matter the reason, treatment for depression is highly effective, especially in a residential setting.

Contact The Wave today for more information about our residential mental health treatment programmes. Our team comprises highly skilled professionals who tailor every treatment plan to every client who comes to stay with us. Don’t wait – start your healing journey with us today.


[1] Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx). (Accessed 1 May 2021).

Fiona Yassin is the International Clinical Director of The Wave Clinic. Fiona is a UK Registered Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor (Licence number #361609 NCP/ICP), further trained in the specialty of Eating Disorders and Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment. Fiona is trained in FBT (Family Based Therapy), CBTE for eating disorders, FREED (King’s College, London), EMDR for eating disorders (EMDRIA) and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Neuroscience and Trauma from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Fiona works with international families and family offices from the UK, Dubai, Kuwait, Singapore and Malaysia. Fiona can be contacted by email on

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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