A Plea to Doctors and Patients

ErinThe Mental Health System9 Comments

I just turned off a rerun of House on tv and it got me thinking about the dramas we watch on tv, especially the medical dramas. Why do we watch these shows?

The storylines are interesting, love between characters ups the ante, but every episode of medical dramas tend to include a stranger being helped. This stranger goes to the hospital after being in an accident or having alarming symptoms that something is wrong with their body and they turn to medical professionals for relief. That happens in the “real world” every day, right?

The difference between tv doctors and real doctors is pretty vast. Obviously, actors on tv aren’t real doctors, and the whole thing is about drama and not science so the medical side is also a crock. The biggest difference that I see, however, is exactly what draws us to the shows in the first place: the doctors on tv care. They care because they are human beings.

Wait, what was that? Real doctors are human beings, too?

One could argue that all real doctors care or else they wouldn’t have gone into the medical field. So why do we rarely see or feel that care? Especially in the ER, a place people visit only in an emergency, why do doctors “treat ’em and street ’em” as fast as possible?

Unfortunately the reasons behind the quick, seemingly heartless attitudes of medical staff are tenfold. Hospitals are understaffed so doctors and nurses are overworked. The pay isn’t good enough and the rest between shifts is inadequate. There are impatient inpatients, rude visitors and ignorant people who waste the staff’s time with non-crucial matters.

It isn’t breaking news that our health care system is fractured here in Ontario, Canada. It really does suck. We are very fortunate to have our healthcare costs covered by the government here, but the downsides to that get in the way of feeling better fast. In addition to the problems mentioned above, the wait lists in Canada are atrocious. More and more, local newspapers that I read talk of frustrated Canadians crossing the border to the US, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their pockets, just to receive the care they need to get on with their life.

A broken system such as ours can’t be fixed overnight, but I do have a plea out there to medical staff that treat the mentally ill. Whether you are a psychiatrist with years of study that make you an expert on mental illnesses or a basic ER doctor that treats the wounds of a self-harmer, remember that the lives of your patients are at stake. Not just their physical lives, but their emotional lives. A common emotion that affects many of the mentally ill is hopelessness. Sometimes hopelessness is part of the disease, as with depression, or it is a by-product of dealing with an illness that is hard to treat and even harder to live with. Treat the hopeless of heart with more compassion than most.

In my personal experience, the ER staff’s ignorance around mental health matters is pretty consistent. As for psychiatrists, especially those working in a hospital environment, many are cocky and self-righteous. Most psychiatrists I’ve dealt with are so confident in their years and years of study that they forget that patients are the experts of their own illnesses. They know their symptoms and their quality of life, and they are coming to you for help, not patronizing.

As angry as this post is turning out to be, I want to end with a positive note: THERE ARE GOOD DOCTORS OUT THERE.

Yes, good doctors exist and we, as a mental health patients, deserve to be treated with respect, reassurance, and optimism. If we don’t experience those qualities in the doctor or nurse or counselor that is treating us, we need to demand better treatment. We might not always get that treatment, but if we don’t ask for something better we will never get it. Trying means using your voice and when that voice is ignored, contact the patients’ representative in the hospital. If it isn’t a hospital setting and you are out in the community, don’t keep seeing a doctor that treats you like crap. Ask your mom and dad to help you find a different doctor, or take that extra twenty-minute drive out of your way to try someone new.

My lack of self-esteem has resulted in me taking too much crap from disrespective people in all areas of my life. By passing this advice on to you I am hoping to reinforce such beliefs in myself. We are worth the effort it takes to have the best mental health treatment possible and when we forget that, we need to remind each other of what’s at stake: everything. We are worth it!

ErinA Plea to Doctors and Patients

9 Comments on “A Plea to Doctors and Patients”

  1. Prozac Blogger

    Oh well, my experience in a hospital is as with everything else.

    Because of the bad economy everyone works for the money. Working for money gets boring. So you don’t enjoy it. It’s that way with doctors, therapists, as well as the lady behind the counter in your local supermarket.

    Thanks for sharing.


    – Prozacblogger

    1. daisiesandbruises

      Yeah, that’s definitely the biggest problem. I wish we could live in a society where people did things only out of love and supported each other without asking for anything in return. I think that kind of attitude only exists in cults nowadays or somewhere very far away from where I am. *sigh*

  2. Andrea

    I wonder too if doctors seem cold and distant at times as a defense mechanism for themselves. Their job essentially is taking on someone else’s problems and making them their own, and that can wear someone down really fast and burn them out. If they “care” or get too attached, then it might become harder in a way for them to deal with the consequences if their treatment doesn’t work, or they can’t “cure” someone. I’m not trying to defend assholes by saying this. Some people just suck. Just thinking out loud!

  3. Pingback: Bloglove Sunday: Welcome (back) to Prozacblogger 2.0 | Journal of a Male Childhood Abuse Survivor

  4. purple pineapple

    I’m really,really lucky to have a GP that truly does care (or if he doesn’t then he does a really good job at pretending). I know this is NOT the case for a lot of people though. The last time I was in seeing my dr., he told me that a lot of ppl don’t realize that their profession can be very stressful. He said they do take their work home with them, both physically (paperwork) and mentally, every night and although the gratification of helping people far outweighs the negative aspects, they do feel down occasionally, too.

  5. Regina

    it’s such a tricky thing… i have a SIL and a BIL in the healthcare field- nurse for over 30 years and an emergency room doc… and they work long and hard hours, punctuated with long and boring hours… and i don’t think there are very many resources for them to turn to when they do feel overwhelmed. and more and more nurses and dr.’s are addicts, simply because it’s so easy for them to get… i think all of them start out caring and then because of bureaucracy and whatever else, that caring goes out the window. no one wins really. esp. not the patients.
    but i agree- something has to be done. and especially for the mental health patients who might not be seen as a critical patient compared to someone with appendicitis or something… plus i don’t think dr’s and nurses get very much training in the mental health field- everything is a specialty here in america.

  6. Rachel

    Ya it’s hard I hate going to the ER because they think they know it all and don’t really help you. I guess that’s a good thing in some ways because it makes me less likely to try to overdose because I don’t want to end up treated like crap, but sometimes I get really really depressed and well you don’t think straight then when you just want to die. I’m in Canada too so I get the whole system your in.

    1. daisiesandbruises

      You make a really good point, Rachel! There have been moments where I think I need to go to the hospital and then, like you say, realize how much being treated like crap in the ER would make things worse. It has taught me to be more resilient over time, I think, but the hospital should never be a place we’re afraid of. Ugh, it’s all so complicated! Thanks for your input. :)

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