Tag: stigma

Talking with medical students (updated)

Particularly relevantly given my previous post, at the end of this week I’m going to be speaking with a group of medical students about stigma in mental health. The local university runs several of these small group sessions through the academic year. Attending one is compulsory for all final year students. The scheme was set up by someone from the Recovery College (which I must write the promised post about!) in conjunction with the university psychiatry department. Each session is led by two people with lived experience of mental health conditions and encountering stigma in healthcare environments. I volunteered to take part through a patient involvement network.

Most of the session will be question and answer and discussion, but first I have to speak for a few minutes about my personal experiences. I can think of many examples both good and bad of care I’ve received, stereotypes that affect me and those that care for me (especially specific to BPD), times my care and relationship with services has suffered because of discriminatory practices and rules, how often I’ve felt rejected and not believed when I’ve most needed help and the long lasting effects of this; also, I want to share times that have been good, such as the empathy I met with when I had my minor op last year which helped me cope with my panic and emotional instability at the time, and the encouragement I’ve found at the Recovery College in being valued for who I am and even for what I’ve been through.

This being my first time, it’s hard to know what the students will be interested in. What will they most want to hear about? What is most important for them to hear? What will they want to ask? I’ve had a little guidance from someone who has spoken at one of these sessions before and any more suggestions would be helpful. If you can think of anything particularly important to discuss, if you have your own lived experience for instance with your own mental health or as a friend, family or carer, or if you have a student or medic’s perspective, I’d be really grateful to hear any thoughts.

Thank you so much.

Ginny xxx

24.o2.2017: By way of update, the meeting with medical students was cancelled as the psychiatrist who was due to facilitate the session was called away unexpectedly. I’m due to  speak at another session in the Spring and afterwards will post about how it went.

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How long their words stay with us

I’m trying to persuade a friend who is very ill to go to A&E tonight, or at least call 111. I wish I was where he is and could take him.

He is not at all well in so many ways. He’s waiting for several operations.  The worst danger tonight is that he has unbearable pain and symptoms to do with blood clots he has; we know with these symptoms that there is a danger of a blood clot in his stomach. We know he should seek help urgently in these circumstances with these symptoms; medics have told him this.

The main reason he is very reluctant to get help is what was said to him by a doctor the last time he was admitted, a few days ago. The doctor made a range of sarcastic comments about him to nurses and another doctor and said outrageous things to him including that hospitals are for people who are really ill not timewasters like him! This was when he’d been admitted when he’d attended as he was instructed to for an ECG and scans. He was found to have three bloodclots in his leg, as well as the numerous other serious problems for which he is due to have operations.

I cannot conceive what would lead a doctor to say what this person did. I know anyone can have a bad day. Anyone can dislike someone. Doctors, nurses, HCAs and other staff in hospitals are under a critical amount of pressure, now more than ever. But what would lead someone to say such bitter, accusing, unsubstantiated, false things to a person they are specifically there to care for? Did the doctor actually believe it? Or was he somehow venting anger, hate, judgement, for some reason onto my friend?

Not only this but without asking any questions to determine his mental state and without advice from the psychiatry team at the hospital or the community mental health service my friend is seen in, the doctor said to my friend that he should be Sectioned, and started trying to arrange this. Was he assuming or insinuating that my friend’s physical health conditions didn’t exist and were delusions? In spite of countless scans and test results and reports? Had he branded my friend as attention seeking because that’s the stereotype he holds of people with the mental health problems my friend has? Did that stereotype have such a hold it negated the physical evidence in front of him? Or does he regard people with mental health problems as unworthy of help or care however much they need it and think instead we should be shut up in institutions out of the way of those who he thinks do deserve help?

I’ve been on the receiving end of this numerous times. I’m really hurting for my friend and knowing he’s been left in so much danger now. Whatever the reasons behind what that doctor said, his words have told my friend he’s unworthy of help and must not ask when he needs it. My friend struggled enough with that already. He has had enough abusive people telling him he deserves pain, deserves bad, is asking for it. I don’t know exactly how it is in my friend’s head of course, but I know from my own experience how much louder memories that tell us we are unworthy, that confirm what our abusers told us, scream at us than any fledgling sense of ourselves and our value can. Words like this doctor’s join with the voices accusing and taunting us and they do not fade; they take a grip of us and punish us if we do not obey them.

My friend is in unbearable pain now and potentially great danger, and I’m trying to persuade him to go to A&E or if he cannot bring himself to do that, to call 111 for advice. I’m praying that if he does speak to 111 – when he does, please God – the advisers that speak to him are compassionate and show him there are people that do want to help and do have compassion and will help and believe him.

What this doctor said to my friend was awful by any standard, I think. Still, I wonder do people, especially people in authority roles (such as those who determine the medical care we get), know how much difference their words make, for good and for bad? I think words do have greater power for those of us with BPD, with histories of trauma and abuse and rejection, and no doubt with many other health conditions too. This is our responsibility to be aware of and to try to learn ways to cope with and I’m starting to see that very gradually,  with a lot of time, we can. It would not be at all fair to demand that other people treat us more carefully than they treat others. Actually, this is one of the things I fear demanding of others. But when we are already in crisis, desperately needing help, it would help so much if those caring for us knew the lasting difference their words and actions can make.

Ginny xxx

 

 

World Mental Health Day – William, Kate & Harry

World Mental Health Day – William, Kate & Harry

I’ve been impressed by the work the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are doing to de-stigmatise mental health conditions and raise awareness of the importance of being able to access the help we need. You can read about what they have been doing today here.

To my recollection their work and their discussion of their own personal experiences (for example, following Princess Diana’s death) is the first time I’ve heard  a member of the Royal Family openly discussing mental health and wellbeing and the importance of responding with compassion not judgement and stigma. It’s encouraging to me to see this change. Recently, many friends of mine have met with really painful and dangerous discrimination and absence of help when they were really in need (as I have I too in the past).

I’m putting in an application for an opportunity through a service user involvement network to speak, from a service user / patient’s perspective, to medical students about mental health, discrimination and support. I’m happy students recognise the need to learn about it. I don’t know quite how this will progress or if I’ll be chosen but I’ll let you know.

Ginny xxx

Image thanks to http://www.aol.co.uk