e4m Health Communication Conference: How to connect with consumers in times of uncertainty
Panel discussion with Dr Bhavana Gautam, Dr Vispi Jokhi, Piali Dasgupta, and Nitiz Murdia
The recently held e4m Health Communication Conference saw a panel discussion on the topic ‘Strategies to Ensure & Support Mental Health.’ The speakers for the webinar were Dr Bhavana Gautam, Wellness Consultant, Counselor and Life Coach; Dr Vispi Jokhi, CEO, Masina Hospital; Piali Dasgupta, Senior VP- Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities, and Nitiz Murdia, Co-Founder & Director, Indira IVF and MS Shamantha, Counseling Psychologist, Fortis Hospitals, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru. The session was moderated by Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor at exchange4media.
The panellists discussed how to connect with consumers during this time of uncertainty and heightened anxiety. They also shared their insights on how brands must change the way they market and sell to the consumers in order to remain connected with their target audiences and progress their business goals while remaining mindful of consumers’ mental wellness.
Sharing his views, Dr. Vispi Jokhi said, “Masina is an elegant institution which has been a mental health facility for almost 25 years. We've always had a spectrum of cases, which range from very mild to very severe psychosis. During this period, since the indoor admissions were restricted, there were a lot of patients who could not seek the help that they required, due to which they were suffering at home. So, we immediately thought of going on the digital platform and going digital in a bigger way than what we were doing conventionally. We made sure that we kept the services running. And we tried to defer admissions for as long as possible. But it was very difficult. However, once the lockdown started lifting and once we were able to understand more about Covid, and the fear of Covid became lesser, we gradually started taking patients in, more and more into the single rooms.”
According to Dr. Bhavana Gautam, “It cannot be a generalized approach. It needs to be well customized and it needs to really understand the fears, and move around that. Some of those fears may just be fears. It may not have any basis to it. The main work still remains that the counsel has to take into consideration all of the aspects such as their nutrition, their fitness, their social connect. In fact, their holistic health came into a much bigger role, rather than that piecemeal approach that was being implemented earlier.”
According to Nitiz Murdia, “the biggest problem with Covid is that when it suddenly hit the world, people didn’t know how to react. They didn't know what it can cause or what it can do, and how to safeguard themselves. Digitally, a lot of misleading things were spread across through media which confused a lot of people. We put in a lot of efforts, especially with the help of telemedicine, teleconsultation. We provided them with a helpline, so they can get in touch with our doctors and so that they don't have to visit hospitals unnecessarily. We have tried to provide them with authentic information as there was a lot of misleading information being passed around.”
According to MS Shamantha, “We need to look out for the signs and symptoms. Any mental health disorder or symptom for that matter, will have certain symptoms. It can be physiological symptoms; it can be emotional symptoms. So we need to understand what are these symptoms and what are these signs and what are they related to. So if it’s anxiety for that matter. The person will be showing bodily cues, or they will have some sort of reaction to a particular situation. If it's depression, they will try and avoid social situations or they might isolate themselves or they might cry excessively. They may also face disturbed sleep and appetite. In such a case, firstly, one must understand who is very close to that person. Communicating the way one does also matters. One can't address it in public, or say it in a way that could be disrespectful or offensive to that person, as it is a sensitive matter. Mental health and stigma go hand in hand. So I think reducing that stigma and normalizing the fact that you can get help, whether it's taking medication, or just going to therapy. It is also necessary to help them understand that, people who just want to talk about their week too go to mental health professionals and that it’s not just people who have severe mental health issues. Therefore, informing people and educating people will really help.”
“The first thing you need to do is be a genuine listener. I have realized that most of the times people want help, they just don't ask for it. Because like I said, it's a stigma, or their egos get in the way, or they feel that they are going to be judged. So I usually land up training, the people who come to me for somebody else. I train them on how to become a better listener so that maybe then, the other person would feel much more at ease saying, ‘Okay, you know what, I think I'll take your suggestion.”
Piali Dasgupta, a mental illness survivor, shared her story. She explained, “I've suffered for over 23 years and I continue to live with clinical depression and anxiety. Mental health is a spectrum. Specifically talking about the kind of support system that you need at work, I think India is far behind. And it's challenging, because it's a dual battle for people like us. We are fighting a battle with our own mind, where there are voices in your head that you can't necessarily control. And there are voices that are going on telling you that ‘you're going to fail’ or ‘your life is not worth living’, ‘you're not good enough’, ‘everything is wrong, everything is going wrong’. So that's an internal battle that you fight. And then externally, you fight a battle with the ecosystem that you live in, which identifies you, as somebody that's looking for dependability or somebody that is a loner or is not a people's person, which is typically not looked at as a good sign in a corporate setup. But I think that even today, organizations have no structured way of dealing with people with mental illness. There is no policy in place, there is no structured way of dealing with people, there is a lack of awareness and a great amount of neglect.”
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