Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Psychiatry Department has introduced an innovative tool to train its doctors, with the aim of enhancing the treatment and care of patients experiencing psychosis.

Psychosis is a symptom or state of mind that occurs as a result of other conditions. It is often linked specifically, but not exclusively, to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression. There are two main symptoms associated with psychosis; hallucinations and delusions, which can both result in a person losing contact with reality. A psychotic episode can be a very distressing occurrence for the person experiencing it – affecting their behaviour, the way they think and how they feel.

The tool introduced to assist in the treatment of psychosis is called Labyrinth Psychotica. It was developed as part of a practice-based PhD project by Netherlands-based artist Jennifer Kanary, to investigate in more depth what it is like to experience psychosis. The project aims to give healthcare providers and other target audiences the opportunity to gain a unique insight in order to increase empathy and understanding that will in turn contribute to better quality of care for people with this condition. Dr Majid Al Abdulla, Consultant Psychiatrist and Deputy Chairman of the Psychiatry Department said:

Dr  Majid
Dr Majid Al Abdulla, Consultant Psychiatrist and Deputy Chairman of the Psychiatry Department, HMC.

Labyrinth Psychotica is well-established in Europe and is now being introduced for the first time in Qatar. We are using it for the training of our doctors with the aim of enhancing treatment for patients experiencing psychotic episodes; including schizophrenic patients and some patients with severe depression and bipolar disorder, who may also experience psychosis.’

He noted that schizophrenia, severe depression and bipolar disorder are among the more severe illnesses diagnosed in patients at the Psychiatry Department. In addition, there are cases of patients with drug addiction who have developed psychosis. The Department provides a Substance Misuse Service as part of its wider mental health services.

Dr. Al Abdulla explained:

In line with the National Mental Health Strategy, we are expanding our services, introducing the most advanced technology and recruiting highly-experienced experts both nationally and internationally. This activity is part of our efforts to utilise the latest advances in knowledge and technology to provide the best possible care for our patients.’

The equipment, known as the Wearable, is an augmented reality cinema that allows users to perceive their direct surroundings as if in psychosis. Through the Wearable, the doctors were able to enter the mind of a fictional character, a young woman called Jamie who is experiencing psychosis. Through this they can experience what she experiences – a ‘normal’ reality that gets increasingly distorted. Each participant’s experience is different as the individual participant’s physical responses to the hallucinations determine how deep he or she enters into the psychosis. Participants can be filmed and later review the footage.

Alexandra Landre, Project Manager, Labyrinth Psychotia said:

Labyrinth Psychotica is a result of seven years of research. The Wearable is one part of it, and another part is the installation of a lifelike labyrinth (where reality is distorted). It’s a very immersive experience and there is a lot of demand for the project. We have been to different countries and worked with a broad range of target audiences, including healthcare institutions.’

Training on the use of this tool is expected to be delivered to approximately 60 doctors at the Psychiatry Department. The activity was facilitated by Dr Ehsane Mohsen Gad, HMC Psychiatry Consultant; Alexandra Landre and Natasja Van der Horst, Project Managers of Labyrinth Psychotica; and Katia El Masri, Medical Representative for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, which financially supports the project.