During a mental health awareness event last week, a young girl in the audience stood up and posed a question to the expert when he invited queries from the public. “How can one effectively encourage a person requiring psychiatric help who adamantly refuses any form of assistance from any source,” she inquired.
The expert scrutinized the girl, attempting to discern the nature of her question. In his response, he inundated her with a plethora of technical terms and jargon, leaving her bewildered and utterly perplexed.
Seemingly at a loss and unable to decipher the expert’s vocabulary, the girl requested him to raise his vocal pitch as he was seriously inaudible to the audience, thereby unsettling him further. Despite his earnest attempts to amplify his pitch, he faltered, unable to project his voice audibly. The event’s sound system, rather than helping the situation, emitted disconcerting noises that added an unexpected layer of chaos, further exacerbating the already challenging communication between the expert and the perplexed girl.
This impasse continued for some time, with neither party yielding ground, and the expert’s fatigue became palpable on his countenance. Baffled, he scanned the audience and luckily zeroed in on a clinical psychiatrist, a seasoned professional who routinely deals with psychiatric patients, charging a fee for his services.
Recognizing him as the sole individual capable of extricating him from the predicament, the expert astutely redirected the question to the doctor, who graciously accepted the challenge.
The doctor rose from his seat, giving his coat a brisk shake with his hands, walked gingerly towards the podium, and took hold of the microphone. Hesitatingly clearing his throat, he omitted any introduction and cautiously requested the girl to repeat the query.
The girl, adamant to seek an answer, humbly repeated the question.
The doctor, holding his head high, scanned the surroundings with an air of professionalism. Opting to communicate in English, he adopted an accent, seemingly prioritizing authoritative delivery over substantive content to prevail over the audience. Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, the doctor inundated the girl with the same jargon. Furthermore, he asserted the legal empowerment of psychiatrists to compel the evaluation of such patients in order to address the issue.
At this juncture, the girl’s interest in the query had waned. Unable to find satisfaction, she chose to bring the inquiry to a close, with the doctor concluding the matter in a typical Zakir Naik style by saying, “Hope you get the answer.”
The reality remains that not a single person, including the girl, got the reply, and instead, it sparked numerous additional questions. The most assertive among them being, “Does the entire communication protocol between a counselor and a sufferer appear to be entirely missing from the equation?”
I posed the question to another expert in the field, a senior professor, who metaphorically bit his fingers, conveying a sense of frustration and bemoaning that the mishandling of the situation right from the beginning had resulted in the squandering of a valuable learning opportunity presented by this specific instance.
“There might be various factors—such as child abuse, substance abuse, parental neglect, sexual violence, harassment, family or external bullying, suicidal ideation, relationship abandonment, and more—at the core of the issue,” he mentioned. “This has exacerbated the predicament for the girl, and those accountable for neglecting her query have committed a transgression against both God and the profession they have chosen.”
A sincere cry for help has regrettably gone unnoticed, he lamented.
The professor, while strongly against the idea of holding such events in the first place, expressed dissatisfaction with the lackluster efforts of such organizations and discouraged their hosting, particularly with a vulnerable generation that has endured various hardships in attendance.
“While ostensibly designed to share information with good intentions, the coordinators of these events inadvertently do more harm than good, the professor continued. “The root cause lies in the persistent lack of proper training and empathy among the available resources, leading to a detachment from the urgent concerns within the community.”
We are not genuinely descending to the level of these individuals and placing ourselves in their positions to assess the situation, he remarked.
Pertinently, the event in question featured some experts who presented information through PowerPoint slides and other materials, reciting details from internet sources that were disconnected from the actual on-the-ground reality.
Notably, no one provided statistical data regarding the patient count, the ratio of patients to doctors, the underlying causes, infrastructure, or challenges associated with addressing the issue. Given the prevalence of information easily available on the internet, which at times can be seriously misleading, this lack of concrete data is particularly concerning, hence dangerous in shaping perceptions and strategies for mental health awareness and support.
Moreover, the inadvertent use of negative terminology such as “mentally-challenged”, employed by certain experts indicated their insensitive and apathetic approach in dealing with such a sensitive topic.
There will inevitably be a divergence between what is written in textbooks or available on the Internet and the real-world situations encountered. Therefore, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals should immerse themselves in the community, cultivating both empathy and sympathy, rather than aspiring to remain aloof in ivory towers.
Mitigating the risk of miscommunication between psychiatrists and their patients experiencing psychosis represents a cost-effective strategy to improve treatment outcomes from both the psychiatrist and patient viewpoints. Addressing these challenges becomes vital for enhancing the overall treatment outcomes. This is particularly crucial for patients who frequently struggle with establishing positive relationships with psychiatrists and healthcare services in general.
The most widely endorsed communication model in the medical field is patient-centeredness. This approach emphasizes a shift from focusing solely on the disease to customizing care based on the individual concerns and preferences of patients. It takes into account the biological, psychological, and social dimensions of illness.
Undoubtedly, the success of medical treatment hinges on the quality of the relationship between the patient and the clinician.
The manner in which the girl’s question was handled during the so-called mental awareness program highlights the significant impact that faulty communication can have on potentially perilous results.
In a lecture from 2000, Terry Canale, Vice President of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, aptly rounded it off: “The patient will never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
- Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.