May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One year into Covid, a ‘National Mental Health Action Day’ was introduced. Its purpose is to let individuals know that Mental Health is just as important, and tied to, physical health.
Imagine struggling with a mental health issue and not feeling confident you can get the help or care you need. Imagine trying to explain your feelings and symptoms to someone who speaks a completely different language.
For individuals who speak a language other than English, language barriers can make it difficult to access mental health care.
This is where interpreters come in. Interpreters play a vital role in ensuring that people with limited English proficiency can access quality mental health care and feel confident in the answers and guidance they receive.
Let’s look at 5 reasons why interpreters are important to mental health care:
1. Interpreters help to ensure that patients receive accurate and complete information about their mental health care. Patients need to be able to understand their diagnosis, treatment options, and risks and benefits in order to make informed decisions about their care. When patients do not speak the same language as their providers, they may not be able to understand the information given to them.
2. Interpreters help to build trust and rapport between patients and providers. Why is trust essential? When patients feel comfortable and understood by their providers, they are more likely to be open and honest about their symptoms.
3. Interpreters can help reduce stress and anxiety for the patient. Patients who do not speak the same language as their providers may feel anxious, stressed and fearful. How can they be sure they are receiving the correct care? How can they be sure their symptoms are being understood? Interpreters do more than just translate; they can also provide a bridge between patients and providers.
4. Mental health conditions can manifest differently in different cultures. Interpreters can help providers understand the cultural context of a patient’s symptoms, which can lead to more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
5. Interpreters advocate for patients’ rights. Patients with limited English proficiency may be more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. Interpreters can help to advocate for patients’ rights by ensuring that they are treated fairly and with respect.
In addition to the above 5 reasons, Interpreters also help bridge communication between patients, providers, and family members. Having a family member translate for the patient may be uncomfortable for the patient as well as the family, and due to this, pertinent information may be incorrect or omitted.
Interpreters play a vital role for both the care provider and the limited English proficient patient. Making sure you have an Interpreter scheduled ahead of the appointment allows all parties to focus on the information at hand and provide quality mental health care.