When parents complain about psychiatrists, it’s often because the psychiatrist treats them as being the cause for child’s problems. Doctors often do not understand what life is like in the family’s home, and how impossible it is to follow through on their recommendations. Interestingly, psychiatrists who themselves have a troubled child are keenly aware of the challenges. In fact, they too can go crazy with grief, and guilt, and a sense of failure… just like parents who aren’t medical doctors. A doctor’s negative attitude towards parents has huge emotional consequences for them. If parents aren’t listened to, or if they are talked down to, it adds a load to their emotional baggage and is debilitating. It weakens their capacity for caring for their incredibly stressful child, and for themselves. To be fair, the medical field has lots of practitioners who aren’t helpful or people-friendly. What’s different about psychiatry is that The Rest Of The World stigmatizes anything related to mental health or brain health… it’s as if brains are always healthy, and if someone has a behavior problem it’s their fault. Many also think mental health treatment itself is sinister and evil, and that psychiatrists and psychologists themselves are provide fake or harmful treatments to unsuspecting people.
Our Own Worst Enemies
Nada Logan Stotland, MD, MPH
“Oncology manages to cloak the most primitive possible treatments—poison and burning—with elaborate protocols. Yet the mention of psychiatry conjures ECT, and ECT conjures images of the snake pit. …We are the only specialty with our own dedicated hate group. We shouldn’t be our own worst enemies.” May 18, 2010, Blog @ www.psychiatrictimes.com
o Dr. Stotland, above, mentions ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), or “shock therapy.” It reboots the brain and is the only thing that keeps some people alive and eases their suffering. So how is ECT worse than shocking a stopped heart with a defibrillator–two paddles on the chest and BOOM! Which is more barbaric?
o In the TV medical dramas, there’s this common scene: a patient is in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors, and the patient is bleeding, or screaming in pain, or convulsing. Somehow this is acceptable in prime time. What if the scene was different. Instead, an agitated, hallucinating patient is being restrained, and injected with a drug that immediately calms and relaxes them. My guess is the public would find it sickening and unethical.
o When a sweet-looking child loses all of his or her hair after being poisoned by chemotherapy, it evokes sympathy and compassion. But if this same child’s hair was lost while taking a psychiatric medication, then it would be seen as a barbaric side-effect of forcing drugs on children to send them to zombie-land. Cancer treatment is forgivable; treatment for brain diseases is not.
This public attitude must change. It victimizes the victims who live with mental disorders, and the confrontations and insinuations families experience is emotionally debilitating. Mental health treatments are no more barbaric than those of other medical illnesses, but the stigma unique to mental health manifests itself in blame, prejudice, and the cruel insensitive comments of others. Let the public dialogue discuss improving lives instead of finding fault with doctors, sufferers, and their families.