Mental health

Outcry over the growing number of mental health clinics in Kerala

Representative image

Representative image

KOCHI: In the post-Covid era, social media has played a major role in raising awareness about the importance of mental health, treatment centers, counseling and consultation. With increasing popularity and acceptance, the state is seeing an increase in the number of mental health clinics.

However, the lack of legislation to control and monitor the operation of these clinics and real counselors has resulted in unreliable information, incorrect diagnosis of mental conditions, and delays in providing treatment, experts have pointed out.

The great psychiatrist CJ John said: “The wrong people giving advice leads to tragic events,” citing the example of a person who tried to kill himself and later talked to him. “He was suffering from depression, which required medication, and he was taking advice from an ex-policeman. This advice did not help him, which led to a suicide attempt,” said Dr John.

Many unscientific practices enter the field of psychology because of the assumption that anyone can do counseling, said Dr Arun B Nair.

“We have seen some religious leaders advise and use spirituality in this matter. Non-scientific interventions can lead to spreading bad practices, false scientists and false beliefs,” he said.

According to experts, counseling is not everyone’s cup of tea, and a degree in psychology or post-psychology does not qualify anyone for the job. Rather, proper training is essential. “Only those who have some knowledge of mental and neurological diseases can understand if a person needs medication or psychological treatment. Awareness of the mental and brain disorders that can be brought about by psychological symptoms is important,” Dr. John said.

Counseling requires confidentiality and method, and it is important that one must adhere to training under the supervision of qualified and experienced doctors, he added.

“A poorly trained person giving advice to a patient may fail to diagnose the condition, or even misdiagnose it, thus delaying treatment and worsening the condition,” said Dr Dhanya Chandran, head of the department. Psychiatry Amrita Hospital, Kochi.

Sometimes, brain problems can be presented with psychological symptoms, said Dr Arun. “A consultant needs to have the ability to understand and analyze such issues,” he pointed out.

There is also the issue of so-called consultants charging huge fees after giving informal advice, said Dr Dhanya.

“Consultants and doctors get a lot of money as fees. Around Rs 500 for a one hour lesson. It is a source of income for several people,” he said.

Experts want registration and licensing practices similar to those issued by the Rehabilitation Council of India for rehabilitation professionals to be brought to counseling centers as well.

An officer of the health services (mental health) department has said that the regulations for health sciences professionals have been included in the Allied and Healthcare Professionals Act of 2021.

“This Act mandates state governments to come up with a regulatory body for professionals and it will come into force in the country once the Act is implemented at the national level,” said the official.

“Giving permission should be made mandatory before setting up a counseling clinic. Such clinics should be registered with local organizations,” Dr John emphasized.

The Mental Health Care Act 2017 made it mandatory for mental health centers to be registered and licensed. “The country has established a Mental Health Council based on the Law. The law has defined the qualifications required for rehabilitation professionals. But counseling is not covered under it,” Dr Arun said, adding that awareness needs to be spread through qualifications.

“Often, people with mental health problems approach life coaches, trainers and mental health coaches who have knowledge or training in psychology. They can give motivational talks and train people to improve business,” he said.

Writing qualifications and degrees on the name plate should be made compulsory to prevent exploitation of patients, Dr John demanded.

Dr Dhanya wanted the government to take steps to appoint more educated consultants in government institutions.

“If government hospitals have enough qualified consultants, people will not want a private clinic,” he said. Dr John also emphasized that this issue can be resolved by putting the appropriate obligations in the government’s collections.

“We have many psychiatrists. About 50 or 60 students pass each year with an MD in Psychiatry from government medical colleges in our state,” he said.

Who is a clinical psychologist?

An MPhil holder in clinical and social psychology after an MA or MSc in psychology. They have the ability to counsel people.

Who can give medicine?

Psychiatrist who completed MD in psychiatry after completing MBBS.

‘Government should step in’

Experts have said that it is important to appoint more consultants who are trained in government institutions to deal with this problem.

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