Mental illness research in the Gulf Cooperation Council: A scoping review

Jason Hickey, Steven Pryjmachuk, Heather Waterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid growth and development in recent decades has seen mental health and mental illness emerge as priority health concerns for the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). As a result, mental health services in the region are being redefined and expanded. However, there is a paucity of local research to guide ongoing service development. Local research is important because service users’ experience of mental illness and mental health services are linked to their sociocultural context. In order for service development to be most effective, there is a need for increased understanding of the people who use these services.

This article aims to review and synthesize mental health research from the Gulf Cooperation Council. It also seeks to identify gaps in the literature and suggest directions for future research. A scoping framework was used to conduct this review. To identify studies, database searches were undertaken, regional journals were hand-searched, and reference lists of included articles were examined. Empirical studies undertaken in the Gulf Cooperation Council that reported mental health service users’ experience of mental illness were included. Framework analysis was used to synthesize results. Fifty-five studies met inclusion criteria and the following themes were identified: service preferences, illness (symptomology, perceived cause, impact), and recovery (traditional healing, family support, religion). Gaps included contradictory findings related to the supportive role of the Arabic extended family and religion, under-representation of women in study samples, and limited attention on illness management outside of the hospital setting.

From this review, it is clear that the sociocultural context in the region is linked to service users’ experience of mental illness. Future research that aims to fill the identified gaps and develop and test culturally appropriate interventions will aid practice and policy development in the region.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number59
Early online date4 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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