Mental Health Interpreting: Why It Is Vital for Quality Care

by | Nov 17, 2021

Any clinical setting must offer patients language access, and mental health is no exception, although mental health interpreting does present unique challenges for interpreters and patients alike.

But why are interpreters so crucial in mental health care situations? Read on to learn more about the link!


Understanding the Importance of Mental Health Interpreting

Mental Health Interpreting Increases Access to Care

Access to language, without a doubt, increases the quality of care. Medical interpreters help save lives because they improve effective communication. When it comes to mental health, however, it might be even more critical.

In many cases, mental health patients have no physical symptoms that can be measured. This means they must be able to describe their emotions accurately. And even in your native language, this can be hard to do. Just imagine what it must feel like with a language barrier in the way!

Without mental health interpreting services, limited English proficient patients, as well as Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing patients, may find it impossible to get the help they need.


Interpreters Help Patients Understand Treatments

Informed consent is at the heart of medical ethics, and it’s also vital in mental health situations. Patients that appear to be dangerous to themselves or others might need to be hospitalized. But it can be a scary process for patients. Language barriers further increase these feelings of isolation and loss of control.

Patients must understand their treatments and the medications that have been prescribed to them. They must have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers they’ll understand. Mental health interpreters ensure that patients understand their treatment plans so they can make informed decisions.


Interpreting in Mental Health Settings Increases Patient Safety and Compliance

We all know that illness leads to impaired quality of life. It can also lead to injury or death, whether through self-medication or risky behavior. If there are communication barriers at play, it is even more challenging for patients to reach out and seek help before it’s too late.

The thing about treatments for psychiatric disorders is that they can often take years. Many people live with permanent conditions, albeit managed. But ensuring that patients comply with their treatment plans is a challenge, not even mentioning the challenges at play when healthcare providers work with foreign patients. Mental health interpreters can help patients understand the importance of sticking to the treatment plan.


Mental Health Interpreters Help Reduce the Risk of Misdiagnosis

Interpreters are there to interpret spoken language, but they actually interpret more than just spoken words. They also translate cultural differences, and these differences can play a significant role in mental healthcare environments. If these differences are not understood, it can easily lead to misdiagnosis.

Here’s an example: A Nigerian patient sought help at a hospital in Virginia. He explained to the doctor that he felt like insects were crawling under his skin. The assessing doctor was a graduate student, and he immediately assumed the Nigerian man had schizophrenia.

Fortunately, there was a doctor on duty that knew Nigerian culture. She identified the condition as Ode Ori.

In Nigerian Yoruba culture, Ode Ori is the physical manifestation of acute distress. Instead of schizophrenia, the man just had a panic attack. And as we all know, anxiety requires a very different treatment protocol than schizophrenia. Interpreters that understand the culture of patients can recognize misunderstandings like these before they become medical problems.


Working With Trained and Qualified Mental Health Interpreters

Mental health interpreting is a specialized field of medical interpreting. Aside from mental health terminology, mental health interpreters must understand the cultural views of the communities they serve.

At Day Interpreting, we make it easy to find highly qualified and experienced interpreters to assist in the languages you need. We also offer various forms of interpretation, including Video Remote Interpreting and on-demand telephone interpreting services. Get in touch with us right now to discuss your interpreting needs!


Seldean Smith
Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

Seldean Smith

Seldean is a multi-skilled content wizard that dedicates herself to writing content that goes beyond merely sparking interest in the audience.

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