That time a mental health professional tried to gaslight me

Published: April 11, 2017

People who had legitimate questions about Mamsa’s behaviour had already seen themselves mysteriously kicked out of the group. PHOTO: FM91

It takes a lot of courage to see a mental health professional. When you enter that room for a one-on-one discussion with your therapist and open up about your burdens, you leave yourself vulnerable. Whenever someone approaches me about mental health issues, and I recommend they see a counsellor, I tell them that the first step is the absolute hardest. But when you schedule that appointment and somehow make it to the rendezvous, and find it in yourself to let your guard down, you cross the biggest and toughest hurdle on the road to better mental health.

Of course, this process only works when the person you are working with is a trained professional who follows a code of ethics and provides healing in an environment free of judgment. I am in close touch with the therapist community in Karachi with dozens of friends and acquaintances in the field and am happy to say that there are some excellent mental health professionals operating in the city who can help those in need with the mending they need.

That being said, I’ve also heard of a minority of unsafe mental health professionals, which is why I advise people to only seek treatment from those who come with personal recommendations from family and friends. A bad mental health provider can do some damage, but a bad mental health provider who is armed with chemicals rather than words can be downright dangerous.

Recently, Faisal Mamsa, who is something of a celebrity thanks to his work on radio and television, raised controversy when he came on FM91’s Analyse It and blatantly slut-shamed women who battle harassment.

It was outrageous, and there was instant backlash on social media.

I am not surprised by this incident in the least. Recently, I’ve heard from an alarming number of sources that Mamsa is judgmental, a sexist, and doesn’t carry the ingredients of a good mental health care provider. At the same time, in the interest of fairness, I am compelled to share that a friend told me that Mamsa was instrumental in saving his life and is the best amongst the professionals he sought help from.

Personally, I’ve had two experiences with Mamsa. The first one was goodish, while the second one was shockingly poor.

Six years ago, I was having relationship issues with my father. I had been urging him to take us to a professional to speak of these problems together. Seeing Mamsa on TV, my father finally booked an appointment, which was a breakthrough in itself, considering my father’s stoic nature. The session was pretty good and helped my father and I find common grounds, thanks to Mamsa’s counselling. There was one really odd moment in the middle where Mamsa asked me if I was in a relationship. When I said that I was in a good relationship with my girlfriend, he immediately asked me if we were having sex.

Now, this felt completely out of context and almost a little perverse. Even if I am wrong and it was in the right context, it felt out of place considering I was sitting next to my ultra-conservative father, and not in the privacy of a one-on-one session. Regardless, I left with a positive opinion of Mamsa from that sole interaction because of his ability to provide insight, though I was certainly creeped out by that one question.

While I can’t say that Mamsa’s session singlehandedly improved our relationship, it did push it in the right direction. Sometime later, I joined a mental health Facebook group helmed by Mamsa. The group had six admins in total, but there was no doubt that it was Mamsa who was calling the shots.

At this time, I had been trying to overcome my habits to stress eat (nom nom nom!), so I felt the group could help. On this very group were a number of friends of mine, some of whom happened to be counsellors, while some were psychiatrists in training.

When I first entered the group, I was pleased to be a part of it. I even told Mamsa on the group that it was a pleasure to absorb educational material on mental health. But gradually I was startled by Mamsa’s harshly judgmental and sexist attitude. A number of friends shared that others had similar worries. As I said, a mental health professional that projects from their own unresolved issues and prescribes brain altering chemicals can be dangerous. Just how dangerous? I was about to find out when I discovered that Mamsa was paranoid and resorted to gaslighting when questioned.

Someone with numerous complaints about Mamsa saw her long post deleted. When she posted about it, that post was deleted also. I brought up these concerns and the next thing I knew, my post was also deleted.

One day, a potential patient posted on the Facebook group in obvious pain. The patient was clearly in grief and suffering from suicidal thoughts and it seemed like their life was on the line. Mamsa offered this patient a session. Sometime later, however, the patient did not show and Mamsa blasted him on the group for wasting his time without an ounce of empathy. In my view, the patient wasn’t in the right mental condition to make sound decisions, or was possibly dead, but it didn’t seem like Mamsa was able to look beyond his own ego.

A mental health professional was startled by Mamsa’s behaviour and posted on the group, but his posted was deleted as well.

Then came the removals.

People who had legitimate questions about Mamsa’s behaviour had already seen themselves mysteriously kicked out of the group. What followed was a comical post from Mamsa claiming someone had hacked the group, was removing members, and that Mamsa was investigating. He further said that everyone removed would be added immediately. Of course, this never came to pass.

Sometime later, the two of us (me and a friend) who questioned these events, were kicked out too.

But then it got worse.

Another friend of mine shared on her Facebook wall (without naming anyone) that she was disturbed by what had happened in a Facebook group. She had neither named Mamsa nor the group. I added my concerns to her post as well, again without naming anyone or the group. Surprisingly, not only did Mamsa stalk her wall (perhaps to see what people were saying about him), but berated us in private messages as well. In the interest of clarity, I am sharing all the conversation I’ve had with Mamsa one-on-one here.

Note: I never said anything bad about the group. I was expressing my grievances. I also never asked my friend to join the group to take my side, as he had been added before the controversy. Once again, it seemed like an attempt at gaslighting.

I had earlier contacted him about setting up an appointment for my stress eating. He used that in a rather amusing attempt to gaslight me. It was pretty clear what he was trying to do, but I was later horrified by the thought that someone in a more vulnerable position than me could have easily been manipulated, especially if placed on a concoction of medication.

What’s disturbing about this is the abuse of power. Mamsa clearly didn’t remember me, but was using his position of authority to put me down. This was a pattern. Others with complaints against him on the group had been similarly gaslighted.

I admit that I was irritated by him at this point. No, I was never added back to the group, and no that ‘hacker’ was never discovered.

I personally do not have anything against Mamsa, but coupled with the radio incident, I am concerned about those whom he prescribes medication to.

If you are seeking mental help, then do not hesitate to take the first step. It can change your life for the better. But certainly do your homework on your health care provider before taking the plunge.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Thinker_94

    The blogs should be for more serious issues, not unresolved issues that u have with ur psychologist, whining about how he removed you from a facebook group, big deal huh? grow up please and dedicate ur time and this site’s space for something meaningful.Recommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

    Agree with Thinker_94, these blogs are turning into personal rant pagesRecommend

  • nimra

    I am so glad you wrote this!Recommend

  • nimra

    Exactly!Recommend

  • Javed

    A wonderful blog it speaks volumes to me I went to him and for simple issue he gave heavy medicine later I found out that he’s a fake doctor.Recommend

  • Kashif

    what can u expect from docotr with a degree from fake university? everyone knows he is “qulaified” from axact

    he is immature sharing on his facebook group asking for support indirectly

    r u going to remove me too “doc”Recommend

  • Reader

    Is it not equally ridiculous to come defend your Uncle? That seems really insecure. Can you admit to everyone that you are Mamsa’s niece?Recommend

  • Kiran_84

    Happy to see this exposure. Went to him years ago he slut shamed me and bragged about himslef.Recommend

  • Berlin

    Here is what’s happening. The ‘doctor’ has linked this to his GP and asked people to defend him. Not everyone of us is coming because he isn’t likable. He is huffing and puffing about cybercrime and lawsuits to his friends and you can see them using the same terminology.

    It’s sad.Recommend