"Clearer explanations"

About: Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services / Sligo Adult Community Mental Health Services

(as a relative),

A family member was referred to see a psychiatrist who suffers with severe depression for 23 years. I went to an appointment to support them. But the language used was very hard to understand and no one explained what was going on. We didn’t ask because we didn’t want to look stupid and we weren’t asked if we understood what was going on. We thought it was some sort electric shock treatment that was being talked about. We walked away and never went to see the psychiatrist again. 

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Response from Edmond O'Mahony, Executive Clinical Director, Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Service 2 years ago
Edmond O'Mahony
Executive Clinical Director,
Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Service
Submitted on 09/11/2021 at 17:13
Published on Care Opinion at 17:13

picture of Edmond O'Mahony

Dear Rosewater,

I am very sorry to hear that you and your family member had this experience during a visit to the mental health service. It is clear from what you have written that you both came to the meeting hoping to get information that could help you to make a decision about treatment for severe depression. You obviously came away from that meeting without that information, because the language used by the doctor was not understandable to either of you. There are some comments and suggestions which I would make.

First of all I would like to thank you for posting your story on Care Opinion. If you hadn't done so, no one would be any the wiser as to why your family member or yourself did not follow up on the discussion with the psychiatrist. It is by getting feedback like yours that we as a service can learn and improve. There are no "stupid" questions when it comes to asking about your health. You make it very clear in your post what the problem was - you weren't spoken to in a way that you could understand. It may have been that the psychiatrist thought that they were explaining things clearly to you, but they were wrong about that. The trouble was that neither of you were asked if you understood what was going on. However it's not too late to try to fix things.

Usually, after a consultation like this, the psychiatrist will write to the doctor who made the referral (possibly your family member's GP) to say what happened. It may be that the information you were looking for is written more clearly in that letter and the GP may be able to discuss that with you.

If that doesn't work, you or your family member could phone the office of the psychiatrist and ask to get the information you need - the number should be on the original appointment letter if you still have it. Alternatively, you could ask the doctor who made the referral (the GP) to communicate with the mental health team, explain the situation, and ask for the psychiatrist or other team member to have another discussion with your family member, knowing that the first discussion was not really understood.

Meanwhile, what I propose to do is to send your post - along with my response - to all the psychiatrists in Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Service as a reminder of the importance of communicating clearly with service users and family members. Communication is a vital part of what we do. Your post reminds us of that. We can't be reminded about that too many times.

Kind regards

Dr Ed O'Mahony

Consultant Psychiatrist

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