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Media Ethics, Medical Ethics And Mental Health: (Mis)Information As Anxiety

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Since Hippocrates, confidentiality has been presented as one of the cornerstones of ethics in healthcare. Confidentiality roots back to respect for autonomy and self-control on the information. Respecting patient confidentiality and privacy are considered as the patients’ rights. Confidentiality is the key virtue of trust-building in the physician-patient relationship.

In healthcare settings, patient’s information should be kept confidential in the professional relationship. A patient may share confidential information (stressful, embarrassing, and harmful) with the physician needed to get an accurate diagnosis. This means that there should be mutual trust between the two; especially when encountered in a mentally disordered case.

Now, electronic media and newspapers are one of the daily needs of our lives. They educate us in various ways in our day-to-day lives. We are dependent on social media for technology dazzles with the allure of possibilities and positive potentials. However, ethical considerations about data privacy are at stake with the rising pressure on media for popularity and TRPs.

The Privacy Rule of the U.S. in effect from 2003 levies heavy fines and potential criminal charges on unauthorized individual health information disclosure. Termed as, “Protected Health Information”, this applies to health information in oral, paper, or electronic forums. In India, the Information Technology Rules (IT-Rules) was enacted in 2011 as Reasonable Security Practices and Sensitive Personal Data or Information.

COVID-19 and the current lockdown situation has created more effect on the mental health of every person in every corner of the country in one way or another, either financially, mentally or physically.

The strengthening of India’s data protection law has been an inevitable step towards the right direction and the IT Rules introduced in 2011 define, ‘sensitive personal data’ where a body corporate collecting sensitive personal data should obtain lawful written consent from the provider. The body should make sure that the data provider/patient is aware of the fact that such information is being collected and further reasons why such information is being collected. So there is always the prospect of protecting the patient’s privacy and understanding the importance of confidentiality both in Medical as well as IT Forums.

Now the question arises, “Why we are talking about the ethics of Patient’s confidentiality and IT Rules related to patient consent as well?” We all are facing COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, I came across many news channels and papers bringing the names of the patients upfront without their knowledge. That is one of the reasons why I thought of writing about my opinion on this aspect for in my almost ten years of work in close relationship with patients, I have always tried to maintain this confidentiality.

It is important to understand that besides the healthcare professionals communicating directly with patients, writing about them with disclosure of their private lives on social media sites or blogs without their consent is unethical. Additional ethical consideration is required from the patients if one needs to write about them or mention them in some electronic media or in black and white media.

COVID-19 and the current lockdown situation has created more effect on the mental health of every person in every corner of the country in one way or another, either financially, mentally or physically. The people are in the fear of death with uncertainty to the future giving them more anxiety. At this moment, instead of advertising the horrific lives of the patients and their suffering, there should be more scientific inclusions to make them come out of these situations. These are one of the most difficult times for all of us as we hear about the spread of COVID-19 from all over the world, through social media, newspapers, television, and other resources. The most common emotion faced is FEAR followed by ANXIETY and PANIC ATTACKS.

A previous survey during 2013 showed that many times social media may lead to (mis)information overload, which in turn may cause mental health problems. World Health Organization (WHO) also has pointed out that too much social media may fuel stigma, which is one of the underlying drivers of fear and anxiety. We need to understand that bringing these patients or the sufferers to highlight their identities can give rise to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can be a great threat to their after-lockdown life.

This outbreak had caused mental health problems amongst the public of China, Japan, medical workers of Wuhan, and there are even increasing mental health cases in India as well. Hence, we need to understand that as a culture, we have been seduced by technology but we must be aware of how much our privacy has been taken for granted and the post-COVID life of all of us shall be at stake if these are not taken into important consideration. Henceforth, it is very important for the next implication to combat with, “infodemic” by monitoring and filtering the unrequired information which can be a threat to the personal life of anyone including patient and public, and to promote accurate information through cross-sectional collaborations.

This post was originally published in Assam Times.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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