Two out of every three mental health professionals in Mumbai — a city ranks second in number of crimes against children (3,400 cases) in India — feel they lack skills to tackle child sexual abuse (CSA) cases. Experts said this is owing to lack of training related to trauma-focused counselling,Hindustan Times reports.
The finding was drawn from a study conducted by The Foundation, a non-government organisation, run by former rugby captain of India and Bollywood actor Rahul Bose. The study is supported by UNICEF. It reveals that 61 Mental Health Professionals (MHPs), who were part of the survey, shed light on achievements and struggles of both the survivor and the response systems of child sexual abuse cases. Nearly 77% — three in four — experts said it was emotionally overwhelming to handle these cases.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 13 children were murdered, 1,864 kidnapped and 979 assaulted sexually in Mumbai in 2016. Delhi tops the list with 7,392 cases. Maharashtra, is the second most unsafe state for children. in 2016, 15,147 cases of atrocities against children were registered in the state.
“Despite the sheer volume of child sexual abuse cases, there is no ground research to find out the role of MHPs in the system and how it can be made more effective. It was only after this study that we realised that MHPs have become an accessory in the scheme of judicial proceedings of these cases instared of playing an integral therapeutic role for the survivors,” said Radhika Rathuri, author and chief researcher of the study.
The MHPs who responded to the online questionnaire collected, reported seeing more than 7,000 cases of child sexual abuse in the past decade. More than 50% of them said they experienced burnout at some point in their practice. Researchers said the burnout was related to feeling of incompetency to perform their job and wanting to quit the profession owing to the emotional or physical burden.
“An alarming number of practitioners didn’t feel equipped to provide services to CSA survivors owing to their lack of training in trauma-focused counselling, lack of skills of working with children and the emotionally overwhelming nature of the work. Sadly so, neither the curriculum for psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors, doesn’t include training of self-care, which is critical to continuing work with trauma clients,” Rathuri added.
“Advocacy has become more prominent than healing. The real job of an MHP, while treating a CSA, is to focus on the survivor’s mental health and improve the role of his teachers, relatives and friends in order to improve his own condition,” said Dr Shetty. “Difference between the number of MHPs who undergo specialised training to handle the cases effectively and number of CSA’s is so vast that the number of cases could result in burnouts or incompetency. There has to be a hierarchical system of mental health professionals, wherein a child is seen by counsellors, psychiatrists and psychologists till the time he or she is completely healed.”
However, Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, a prominent emergency care psychiatrist, is of the opinion that a psychiatrist needs to look at his patients objectively without being emotionally involved with them.
“Today, there are different mental health specialists to handle different aspects of the disorders and each has their own specialty. If the experts treating CSAs find it overwhelming they need to focus on their ability to handle the case empathetically and not be sympathetic,” said Dr Matcheswalla.
He added, “It’s true that we have a few professionals, but if they attain enough specialised training, attend workshops, and carve their niche while working with patients, we will effectively handle the issue of CSA.”