Language barrier and mental health awareness.

Communication is essential in everyday life. Language is a powerful tool for conveying information. As a result, the language barrier impedes communication. Language barriers can exist not only when people or groups speak different languages and thus cannot communicate with one another, but also when dialects are spoken. Misunderstandings and communication gaps occur when people speak the same language but have dialectical differences. “India uses over 22 major languages written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects,” for example. [1] As a result, it impedes communication when it comes to mental health awareness.

Most developing countries appear to have a large number of languages in comparison to developed countries, which have a limited number of languages. Papua New Guinea has the world’s highest level of linguistic diversity. They speak 840 different languages. Indonesia comes in second with 711 languages; “only 20% of the population speaks the national language of Bahasa Indonesian at home.” [2]

With more than 2,000 distinct languages, Africa has a third of the world’s languages with less than a seventh of the world’s population. By comparison, Europe, which has about an eighth of the world’s population, has only about 300 languages.

“Why Does Africa Have so Many Languages?” The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Apr. 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/Science-Notebook/2015/0421/Why-does-Africa-have-so-many-languages.

The issue is not so much a proliferation of languages as a barrier to communication as it is a lack of a unified language. There are approximately 328 languages spoken in the United States, with English serving as the common language. Linguistic diversity is fascinating, and I hope that all languages survive. According to a study of 100 people in a city in western Uganda, the average speaker knows 4.34 different languages. [3] Isn’t that incredible? A unified language in a society, in addition to other languages, improves communication, which promotes the development of many sectors, including the health sector. People who are not fluent in an official language are thought to have difficulty obtaining psychiatric care when it is needed, owing to the obvious limitations they face. Making an appointment on time, determining affordability, and obtaining information on mental health care and the location of hospitals or clinics are all examples of these challenges. [4]

The majority of developing countries do not have a unified language. This is a significant impediment. As a result, it is difficult to conceptualize mental health awareness. Because mental health diagnoses are not objective examinations and must be communicated in order to be achieved, it is nearly impossible if the client and medical personnel speak different languages and cannot understand each other to any extent. When explaining the details of a diagnostic or treatment, it is critical to communicate the possibility of the associated risk factors appropriately. Failure to adequately explain the magnitude of the risk could have serious consequences, such as patients failing to follow instructions or declining potentially life-saving treatment. To complicate matters further, people from different ethnic groups describe pain and discomfort in a variety of ways: Even if you have excellent language skills, culturally specific terminology, idioms, or metaphors may be difficult to navigate. [5] It is not possible to establish a close relationship between the client and the medical personnel. It’s difficult to establish rapport when neither party understands the other. The use of a translator or interpretation services is an option, but this compromises privacy. Consider going to a therapeutic session and having a third person in the room ready to translate for both parties. In reality, it is difficult for the client to express their concerns when a third party is present. When you want to be understood but your brain is unable to decode the message of the spoken language, you experience a wave of frustration. High intuitive people, on the other hand, can easily connect with people of any language by absorbing their feelings.

We live in a time when technology is constantly evolving and on the rise. Despite the availability of human translators, technological advancements such as phone translating apps have been made. Despite the existence of phone translator apps, not every language is supported, rendering them ineffective to some extent. I’m thinking about how we might see a world in the future that isn’t hampered by a language barrier. Not because languages will become extinct, but because there will be, or perhaps already is, a breakthrough that transcends language. Is this to say that we should sit back, take a deep breath, and wait patiently? No way are we going to do that. To change the mental health landscape, we must make the most of the resources at our disposal. If that means teaching the next generation how to communicate in a common language, so be it. Allow the curriculum to expand if it means including a mental health subject in schools. Mental illnesses exist alongside physical illnesses, and the younger generation, as well as those yet to be born, must be aware of this.

There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business.

Vikram Patel

References

[1] Davis, Ben. “Home.” Mvorganizing.org, 22 May 2021, http://www.mvorganizing.org/what-is-linguistic-barriers-in-communication/.

[2] Ang, Carmen. “Ranked: The Countries with the Most Linguistic Diversity.” Visual Capitalist, 27 Jan. 2021, http://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-countries-with-the-most-linguistic-diversity/.

[3] “Why Does Africa Have so Many Languages?” The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Apr. 2015, http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/Science-Notebook/2015/0421/Why-does-Africa-have-so-many-languages.

[4] Ohtani, Ai, et al. “Language Barriers and Access to Psychiatric Care: A Systematic Review.” Psychiatric Services, 1 May 2015, ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.201400351.

[5] Meuter, Renata F. I., et al. “Overcoming Language Barriers in Healthcare: A Protocol for Investigating Safe and Effective Communication When Patients or Clinicians Use a Second Language.” BMC Health Services Research, BioMed Central, 10 Sept. 2015, bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-015-1024-8.

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