Have you ever been treated differently by a Dr, PA nurse practitioner etc once the find out you have a mental illness?

Have you ever been treated differently by a Dr, PA nurse practitioner etc once the find out you have a mental illness? I’m talking about someone who is not you regular provider and doesn’t know you. I’ve had a few experiences with this and it’s frustrating to say the least. I have to go to my urgent care every so often because I get migraines & have severe chronic back pain. All the providers know me & I have a documented HX of migraines  as well as the back pain so they have a pain management plan for me. I get the same injection each time I go.Every once in a while a new provider is hired or one “floats” from another location. First they look at my med list and ask why am I taking so many medications,so I tell them my diagnosis. One even asked if I had a seizure disorder when I said no & asked why he said well you’re on an anticonvulsant. At this point I knew I had a better understanding of psychopharmacology than he did. But I digress, the minute they hear I have a mental illness they start treating me like I have the IQ of an amoeba. Like I couldn’t possibly have a migraine I just think I do. I get so tired of this. I once told  PA how he was treating me, I didn’t get angry, just very blunt.It’s no wonder the stigma still exist when those in the medical field perpetuate it!

Wait a minute maybe I don’t understand the question correctly.  Let me get this straight the gist of it seems to be “have you ever been treated differently by a health care provider due to your mental illness?”  Is that right?  Okay and this has actually happened to you?  Well that’s just terrible!  I mean, it goes against everything I know about how a professional health care provider is supposed to act.

The key word here is “supposed”.  No health care provider should ever behave that way it’s unprofessional, ignorant and rude behavior.  I’m sorry you have been subjected to that kind of treatment.

Whether it be a doctor or a nurse attendant all people who work in the health care field performing any kind of patient care have to possess a license or certificate.  And before they get that license or certificate, they have to take an oath or a pledge that in part deals with care and treatment of patients.   I’m pretty sure they don’t say anything about treating patients with a mental illness any differently in fact they state the exact opposite.

From the Hippocratic Oath to the pledge of the Certified Nurse Assistant and all other care provider disciplines, these pledges and oaths all share a common thread with regard to patient treatment more commonly referred to as bedside manner.  Basically they all say and refer to the same things; treat a patient:

1)   As a human being

2)   With dignity & respect

3)   With loyalty & autonomy

4)   Equal, without bias or judgment

5)   With beneficence & nonmaleficence

(fancy shmancy words for: do good/do no harm)

Gee isn’t that just awesome?!  I mean how great is that we get to be treated with decency and kindness every time we see our health care provider!  Yeah right maybe if we lived in a perfect world, which of course we don’t.

So with all that being said, to answer your question; yes, unfortunately some health care providers have treated me differently when they realize I have a mental illness.  Enough times in fact, that I’ve complained to supervisors, suggested that mental health education be provided in some facilities and once told the actual provider (very diplomatically of course) that he was rude and ignorant.

In my experience the reactions of individual providers varies with one exception.  The minute, and I mean the exact minute they realize I’m bipolar their entire affect changes and they get the “look”.  You know the look I’m talking about.  That look that say’s “Oh boy, got me a crazy one today, wonder which kind she’ll be. Hmmm let’s see, a hypochondriac, a junior Dr, a med seeker?  Well it don’t matter anyway cuz there’s nothing wrong with her it’s all in her head”

I’ve been accused of being an addict looking for a fix when I needed pain medication for a migraine.  Told I looked impaired as I looked sleepy my eyes were red and my body movements were slow, when in fact I was exhausted had been crying and was in a great deal of back pain.  Told it’s probably nothing when the lab work came back I had a severe kidney infection.

These were not very pleasant experiences, to say the least.  I’ve learned to expect a certain amount of ignorance and stigma from people, but when it comes from someone who works in the medical profession I’m sorry, that’s just not acceptable to me.

This type of unacceptable conduct from medical professionals has made me aware of some very obvious truths.  Due to their mental illness individuals are being stigmatized and treated with ignorance by health care providers.  This conduct is particularly offensive as it is the very cornerstone of the medical profession is  “first do no harm” and “to do good”

It’s very clear that our medical, nursing and vocational school’s psychiatric and mental health curriculum are severely lacking.  They are in need of a major overhaul and dramatic improvements have to be made in the quality, guidelines and standards in both subjects.

I hope this has answered your question.  Its always frustrating and difficult dealing with the stigma of mental illness, especially when it comes from a profession that should “know better”.

Please don’t  be afraid to speak up and be your own  advocate.  You deserve  care and treatment delivered with dignity and respect.


4 thoughts on “Have you ever been treated differently by a Dr, PA nurse practitioner etc once the find out you have a mental illness?

  1. It’s so frustrating when people make judgments about your intelligence or physical health based on their perceptions of your mental health. I had a nurse at the cardiologist’s office ask me if I thought maybe I didn’t feel good because of all the meds for anxiety I was taking,and I had to inform her that I didn’t have anxiety, just depression, and that the “anti-anxiety meds” were for the damn chest pain and the insomnia the beta blockers (for the chest pain) gave me. She looked at me like I was retarded. Just because they’re in the medical field doesn’t mean they know any better, unfortunately.

  2. OOOhh, what a good question! This touches on something. My son has a mood disorder NOS, the doctors mention time and time again about not wanting to put a label on him, this must be the reason why. I’m, sorry that your illness brings a stigma. I wish I could figure out a way to protect my son from it, but I think it’s how you deal with it that matters. I thought it was great that you called the doctor out for his inappropriate actions.

  3. That’s a good question. I have never been treated by a Dr. etc. that wasn’t my primary any differently. But, I’ve had my former pdoc-Dr. Alain Katic of Houston Texas at Claghorn and Lesem Research Clinic treat me in many ways that were demeaning etc.. I reported him to The Texas Medical Board for all he did to me. That’s a twist, huh?

    But, now is all good my primaries are very good. That was a learning experience with Dr. Katic.

  4. I was once told by a DR. to stop feeling sorry for myself (I wasn’t) and to consider myself lucky that I hadn’t been born a dwarf! I worked with health professionals who used the phrases ‘retarded’ and ‘mentally ill’ as though they meant the same thing, (retarded is such an awful word). I think doctors and nurses are just an extension of society in general and I am no longer surprised when I come across their ignorance. I was in hospital earlier this year and one of the nurses, an RN with extra psychiatric training asked me if I thought I would feel better if I just thought happy thoughts. Now why didn’t I think of that???

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