Written by Hannah Blum, author of The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love
A Love and Hate Relationship: Psychiatrists and People With Mental Illness
As my psychiatrist pointed to her degree hanging on the wall, she looked at me with anger in her eyes and said, “You see that degree, it means that I am the expert, you’re the mentally ill patient. I know what’s best for you, you don’t.” This was after I told her that I no longer would accept medications that sedated me, and I wanted to have more of a say in my treatment.
In defense of myself, I said back to her, “I don’t give a sh-t about your degree. I live with the mind you so desperately try to figure out, and you treat me with no respect.” She screamed and pointed at the door, “Get out of my office.” She yelled so loudly that other doctors came out of their office. This woman made it seem as if I had threatened to jab a pen in her eye when really I just called her out.
After that experience, I asked every psychiatrist to leave the door slightly open. I even asked some if they could record our conversations. Even if they didn’t they knew by me asking that I was very skeptical which made the experience different.
If this situation happened to someone with any other disease, the doctor would most likely be fired and face even more severe consequences. He or she could also be taken to court and stripped of their license.
I am a mental health blogger and person living with bipolar disorder. Being I am heavily present in the community, I receive messages with stories that would absolutely shock you. I even have some of my own experiences with psychiatrists that are unfortunate. After 5 years of searching, I have found 2 psychiatrists that I love, but it took me too long to find them.
A couple years ago, I was asked to speak with a group of graduate students who were en route to becoming psychiatrists. Here I am, a person with a mental illness telling them what I think would be helpful. When the professor asked if there were any questions, out of 40 students, one raised their hand. One. The majority were looking at their phone. It was so bad that the professor even apologized to me after the talk. Boldly, I told him that if he allowed any of “those students” to become psychiatrists or psychologists that he was doing an injustice. He was shocked by the truth, not uttering a word. I walked away and said out loud to myself, “That’s a problem.” It’s not a little problem, it’s a huge problem.
5 Things We Need From Psychiatrists
We need you to listen and treat us as an individual.
My mind cannot be found in a textbook. I’m a person with a vibrant personality who wants to contribute to society in a big way. Look me in the eyes when you speak to me. Treat me like a human, because that’s precisely what I am. Listen to me.
We need you to work with us, not above us.
If I could tell you the number of times I have heard psychiatrists speak stigmatized and demeaning statements about people with mental illness, you would be horrified. I don’t look like the “stereotypical person with mental illness” so out at social events or conferences, people talk openly. In fact, when I first go up to people, I do not tell them I have bipolar because I want to hear the truth about what they think. Statements such as, “I had this one nut…” Please treat us with respect.
We need you to advocate for us.
Whose side are you on? Are you going to fight for more research to help treat us, or are you going to sit in your office and keep writing out prescriptions that you know could be better? Would you stay on a medication that made you drool? Once I literally woke up in a pool of milk and fruit loops. Is that a life? No, it’s not. Here’s the thing, I know that psychiatrists know that there is a significant problem. I see many who are fighting and opening up online about it, which gives me hope. We want you to prove that you are in this for the right reasons. We are dying off one by one, and you have the power to change that, so do it.
We need you to tell us that it is going to be okay.
I have been to a lot of psychiatrists, and at the mental hospital probably I saw around ten-fifteen different ones. No one ever looked at me and said something even close to, “It’s going to be okay, Hannah” or “We will get there.” Even in the times, I sat crying in the chair, telling the doctor that I had no hope for treatment. They never even once looked up at me. Not once. We need you to help us get the resources we need, to offer us inspiration, to tell us that we are going to be okay.
We need you to choose a new profession if your heart is not in this one.
If your heart is not in it, if you are not passionate about it, if you don’t want to do more for people with a mental illness, do us all a favor and get the hell out of this profession. There is a movement on the rise, and mental health advocates are beginning to gain more power every single day. If you are in this for the wrong reasons and think your degree will keep you safe, you are wrong.
To treat me correctly, you need to get to know me. We need you, but always remember, you need us too. Treat us with the respect we deserve and give us hope.
A Note to the Good Ones
To all the incredible psychiatrists out there, thank you. We need more of you. You have my support, love, and respect. I am so grateful to each one of you. I know there are many great ones. I respect, and I admire these people. This blog post is not to demean psychiatrists or make them feel bad. It’s to wake people up to the truth. It’s to recognize one of the biggest problems with the mental health system.
To my psychiatrists, Liz and Caroline, thank you for giving me life. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for working with me and not against me. You are the reason I am where I am today. If there were more psychiatrists like you, more people with mental illness would be living the life they deserve. I love you with all my heart.
For more mental health content follow @hannahdblum
In her first book, The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-Love, Hannah Blum redefines what it means to be broken and helps others find their way to a different type of self-love, the unfixed version of it. Through a collection of stories that will never leave your mind, inspirational quotes and the lessons taken from her journey with mental illness, readers are sure to feel empowered after reading this book.