That time a mental health professional tried to gaslight me

Published: April 11, 2017
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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

  • aquib

    this is a serious issue. a mental health professional who doesn’t care about his/her patients is definitely a serious issue! im glad someone is speaking up against such medical professionals who have been given so much responsibility , and that too responsibility for a the fragile, mind of a suffering patient.Recommend

  • Saqib Ali Rana

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

  • MKA

    I am surprised that Express Tribune exercises no moderation over the blogs run under its name and let authors settle their personal scores or express their grudge against anything they find offensive in their personal lives and opinion. Add insult to injury, Express Tribune even permits publication of private communication trails. Had this not been in Pakistan, I am pretty sure that these type of publications would have warranted legal ramifications on grounds of unsolicited public defamation.Recommend

  • Clairvoyantly Critical

    I love how some people’s reaction to the article is the same as how they would react to someone with mental health issuesRecommend

  • Isidore

    Your provoking demeanor clearly exemplifies what might have happened and why you got removed from the group. I really don’t know this doctor but I think getting removed from a group shouldn’t allow you to eat space on this site. Recommend

  • Amyn A. Ghulamali

    Not going into rhetorical jargon but sticking to the facts of what has actually transpired. (heard from social media and the social butterflies around Karachi!) Here are a few facts that you (the reader) might want to know…

    A patient who was not following the doctors prescription and treatment asked for a supposed letter so that he could pass by in one of his educational courses that he was failing

    The doctor denied to oblige as he found the patient to be a risk to not only himself but the doctors own reputation

    The parent (mother who threatened the doctor with physical harm on email and social media) was abroad and not there to even witness the actual turn of events and the patient who had a mental illness was left unsupervised at the mercy of a sister who works for the express tribune and was also a patient of the said doctor.

    Everything stated in the write up is based to swing emotions of the general public and nothing to do with any factual information which may be challenged by a board of medical practitioners

    The sad reality is that the author has written a biased article focused upon targeting one human being and not a series of instances that affected one brother and sister…

    The author did not have the rights to share social media communications from social media about a group focused on mental awareness thus compromising the privacy of those within the group – that was and is a closed group for people looking for help and sadly this blog has just contradicted the citizen journalisms integrity that is supposedly endorses!

    From what it seems to any un biased reader somehow some socialite wants attention and is now getting it sadly because her daughter works in the tribune …

    This according to the cybercrimes act of Pakistan is a criminal offence on the form of defamation and personal attacks against the said party who was also threatened by his Patient! This is a bitter harsh reality of the truth… that money can buy you anything even the ability to swing emotions to get your vote – I guess that is why Pakistan is not able to digest honest democracy…

    Faisal Mamsa was and is a human being who helped me out of my addiction and I respect the man tremendously… He never breached my confidentiality and yes is a very tough doctor who I also despised at my own times of weakness but at the end of the day Dr. Mamsa is honest to his profession as for so many years till date I have managed to build a new life with the help of his support…

    Write to the owner and voice your concern over this by sending an email.Recommend

  • Amyn A. Ghulamali

    a copy has been mailed to the entire lakhani familyRecommend

  • Rumaisa Reem

    So here is how this seems to be going down. A mental health practitioner who has been in the field, gone through the grind and tough practice of mental health devotes his time to a radio show (that probably pays him way less than he can earn during that time and opens Karachi’s first and only mental health forum run by practioners of mental health).
    He talks about a controversial topic and gets bashed. And them out of 6 or 9 administrators in a group some start removing negative comments. Fingers point at Mamsa. Why because he is earing millions from a social heath group or getting internationally acclaimed fame from an 11 pm radio show? Intrigued I make calls go though the group and find out his schedule. The man clearly has no time to moderate the group – I say this after checking his schedule and finding out he practices all day, researches in depth for his show and then answers all questions directed to him by fb adminis of the group and other people who reach out to him
    What is wrong with us? Why would we call a person who does 8 out of 10 shows on pro-women topics? Who openly says on a national show that a woman does not have to depend on her husband or listen to society if it compromises her identity. Have we just gotten into a culture of posting anything on a blog with screen shots of the person accused constantly asking if the accuser is OK? Just so we get blog hits? So we are taken seriously as critics. Guys seriously this is not the forum to complain and crib- that’s what’s fb statuses are for. Let’s not become so negative that we trash the very people who take initiatives. Progress is though moving forward not pulling people back and defaming them through Facebook. Move ahead or move on. Your own advancement clearly should matter more that who removes you from their fb group!Recommend

  • Rumaisa Reem

    It’s not serious when you pick 1 show out of a bazzilion when 99% of them are pro women.

    It’s really ridiculous to vent over being removed from an fb groupRecommend

  • RI

    What was that all about ? Naming names because one can ? Any idea what that does to someone’s reputation ? This is outright wrong and to some degree immoral . Keep it generic if the intent is to educate or warn , go to court if you have concrete evidence , but whocares if one is kicked off a group dude … move on . Recommend

  • Wassay Hassan

    Firstly I would like to say that am really sorry to hear about your experience. As I know because of first hand experience how hard it can be to not find the right help when you’re going through something which people in this country don’t even want to talk about.

    Finding the right therapist is not easy. I went to some of the very reputable names recommended by my friends and family before I finally met Dr. Faisal mamsa and I’m shocked to hear what you are saying Because he was the kindest, smartest and the most efficient of the 4 that I met. He really helped me with all my issues over a period of 9 months and then a few follow up sessions.

    After that I have recommended his name to a lot of the people who don’t seem to be finding the right kind of help and I all I have heard from them is praises for Dr. Mamsa and they thank me for pointing them in his direction.

    Once again in my opinion he is the best we have In this country.

    Once again I’m sorry for your experience and hope you find someone who can help you through the tough times. Good luck!Recommend

  • 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

  • Javed

    This is a very serious and public issue. Do you even realize or understand that this ‘psychiatrist’ is breaking code of ethics?Recommend

  • Zubair Bakhtiar

    Sadly, the Pakistan society will never IMPROVE if we have such kind people who publish such biased article, which is filled with manipulation and one sided story. Our Privilege class of Pakistan still try to abuse the power and take it for granted. SERIOUSLY ”WAKE UP PAKISTAN” On the other hand, those who tried to DEFAME this doctor and the member of the group, PLEASE NOTE: This group is not owned and run by Dr. Faisal Mamsa only, there’s a core committee who manage this group and with all consent they mutually decides on such actions. This group is run by the group of international and local psychiatrist who are highly qualified from U.S and other district. The contribution of this group is to contributes towards our society development, 90% of the group member CONSIST of Mild, Moderate and Severe mental problem patients which contains no relevancy on this article.Those who are reading this, please note: the group offered and helped 100s of GENUINE people with free therapy, counselling sessions and free medical camps established for the treatment, but this is not boast or advertised. The ironic part is that, while offering free treatments to the underprivileged class, nobody showed up on TIME and no serious attitude was presented by the so called patients who’s Facebook messages are shown with no relevancy. This is a message by one of the core members and yes Dr. Faisal Mamsa is very very punctual and request all his people to be punctual. After reading this article it made me recall the famous quote, ”Jaisay loge Waisay Hukmaran” If tribune is not biased and keep the freedom of speech realistic and improve its credibility then allow this post to be published!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

  • Rajnesh Kumar

    Ditto – I am in total agreement. 1) He is a great doctor with whom you can have differences but He is true to his work. He is quite strict which not many patients may like at times but in the end it’s for their betterment.Recommend

  • ibad

    Ask for his credentials please. And speak to his former employers.Recommend

  • Finch Please

    All this load of absolute melodrama on just being ousted from an FB group?

    Son, you need a quick lesson in The Perils of Keyboard-Jihaadism 101 – stat! Recommend

  • ibad

    “Everything stated in the write up is based to swing emotions of the general public and nothing to do with any factual information which may be challenged by a board of medical practitioners.” Practicing without certification or license, lying to employers and clients alike, and clinical malpractice reasons aplenty make up for grounds to be “challenged by a board of medical practitioners”, sadly the corrupt reign supreme in our land.Recommend

  • zedd

    aren’t you his niece?Recommend