Barkha Dutt on 1st August posted an interview of Sushant Singh Rajput’s therapist, Susan Walker Moffat, which prompted netizens to raise serious questions. While Moffat, who is a practising Clinical Psychologist/Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, claimed that Sushant had Bipolar disorder, serious questions are being raised on her breaking the client confidentiality. In her statement, Moffat claimed that it was her “duty” to go public.
Further, in a bid to give clean chit to Rhea, Susan Walker said how Rhea was nothing but a strong support to Sushant. Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant Singh Rajput’s ex-girlfriend is currently under investigation over her alleged involvement in Rajput’s death. She is now reportedly untraceable and gone into hiding.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s Therapist Susan Walker reached out to @themojo_in & broke her silence. Says Media’s irresponsible coverage on Mental Health dismayed her & made going public her “duty”. Says Sushant “suffered from Bipolar Disorder” & “Rhea gave him courage to seek help” pic.twitter.com/R4wITRsPcB— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) August 1, 2020
Susan Walker Moffat’s statement
While talking to Barkha Dutt, she narrated a “prepared” statement in which she said, “In light of the misinformation and conspiracy theories currently raging on social media about Sushant Singh Rajput and Rhea Chakraborty, I have decided it is my duty to make a statement. In my capacity as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, I met Sushant and Rhea on several occasions in November and December 2019 and communicated again with Rhea in June of this year.” She continued to talk about the stigma that revolves around mental illness. She claimed that Sushant was suffering from bipolar disorder that is a severe mental illness. “[It] can be crippling for an individual during an episode,” she added.
Susan said that the continuing and appalling stigma around mental illness makes it very difficult for the patients and their families to get help from a professional. She further added that mental illness is no different from cancer or diabetes. It can affect anyone irrespective of class, financial status, gender and so on. Barkha claimed that Walker reached out to her media house The Mojo to give a statement.
Walker further added, “People with mental illnesses and their families need to feel safe from discrimination so that they can get their treatment and support and acceptance they need. There is no shame in having a mental illness. Should one feel ashamed of having cancer? Mental illness can be treated, it is often the shame of having such an illness that can drive people to suicide. Along with the absolute torment of being in the grip of an illness that affects the ways our minds and emotions work.”
Susan Walker gives a clean chit to Rhea and claims that she filled the role of a ‘mother figure’ for Sushant who was severely ill, she claimed. She alleges that Rhea was already having a hard time as she was dealing with someone who had mental illness (Sushant). And the ‘hate’ she has been receiving online is deeply shocking to her.
What is Bipolar disorder and why a clinical psychologist is not the person to deal with it
Formally known as the manic-depressive illness or manic depression, Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that can cause unusual shifts in mood, energy, concentration, activity levels and the ability to carry tasks in routine. As this particular mental illness cannot be controlled without medication, the patient must contact a qualified psychiatrist for the treatment. Psychologists (talk therapists) can provide support in dealing with the symptoms and suicidal thoughts (if any), but the treatment must be carried out under the supervision of a qualified psychiatrist.
What does the law say about patient-doctor confidentiality?
Netizens pointed out how this kind of statements by a therapist who claims to have had Rajput as her client, may not quite be ethically correct.
Barkha while I agree with everything Ms Walker says about mental illness & the media circus around Mr Rajput’s death, I am not convinced that she had a right to break client confidentiality. Unless she believes someone’s life was at risk. Also see last point below. Wish her luck! pic.twitter.com/RgBTMp5EsT— Dr Soumitra Pathare (@netshrink) August 1, 2020
According to Mental Health Care Act 2017, Section 23 (1), “A person with mental illness shall have the right to confidentiality in respect of his mental health, mental healthcare, treatment and physical healthcare.” The law further adds that it is the duty of the health professionals (that includes registered psychologists) to keep all the information confidential that has been obtained during the treatment. The law also states in Section 24 (1) that photographs or any other information related to the patient cannot be released in media without the consent of the person with mental illness. Though there are some exceptions where such information can be released such as fear of violence, order from a court and so on, in this case, it is a violation on the part of the said therapist as suggested by Dr Soumitra Pathare (Director Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy ILS) and Dr Harish Shetty (Psychiatrist, Mumbai) in the comments under Dutt’s post.
Sharing information about a patient / client publicly is violative of confidentiality clause. This violates the Mental Health Care Act 2017 and is punishable.The allegations & counter allegations here can be cleared by a good criminal investigation and a psychological autopsy.— Harish Shetty (@DrHarish139) August 1, 2020
Netizens criticized Barkha for releasing confidential information
Netizens criticized Barkha Dutt for not only releasing the confidential information about the late actor but also questioned authority to Susan Walker Moffat to treat him. Moffat’s LinkedIn profile and Mojo’s description of the interview state that Walker is an MSc in Clinical Psychology (London) and a Psychologist cannot treat a severe case of Bipolar disorder. After the backlash, Walker has locked her LinkedIn account.
Netizens also demanded that her licence be cancelled for breach of confidentiality.
Ms Susan Walker Moffat said on record that Sushant Singh Rajput was suffering from Bipolar Disorder.— Soumyadipta (@Soumyadipta) August 1, 2020
I want to place on record that she’s not a Psychiatrist. She doesn’t have any medical degree. She is a Counsellor.
She has done MSc in Psychology from London University. pic.twitter.com/OLvkngptGq
The therapist should by no way break doctor-patient confidentiality especially on mental health. This sets the talk on mental health and stigma associated with it by a decade. Cancel her licence right away— Social distancing Toaster (@toastingtoaster) August 1, 2020
It has to be noted that just a day before posting the statement of Sushant’s “Therapist,” Barkha Dutt posted a tweet in which said, “Vomit inducing coverage of Sushant Singh’s Rajput on television channels. Trivialization of mental health issues, privacy, personal relations- and now oh, the brazen misogyny. Ugh. Ashamed I was once part of this medium.”
Bihar Police is currently in Mumbai after Sushant Singh’s father filed FIR against Rhea Chakraborty. While investigating the case, Bihar Police have alleged non-cooperation from Mumbai Police.