This study explores the rationale and need for a short-stay psychiatric unit at Al Ain (United Arab Emirates) district hospital. The paper describes the demographic and diagnostic characteristics of patients with brief admissions over 40% – of all psychiatric admissions – most of whom have neurotic, stress-related and adjustment disorders. Only 12% of patients were severely disabled and in about half the patients, anxiolytic or no medications were prescribed. Significant reduction of distress was achieved by brief admission. In current circumstances, we believe that the short-stay unit might be the best available and least costly option.