Today we learned something really interesting, and it is pertaining to stigma.
A woman came in, or rather a mother came in, to tell us the story of her son. Long story short, he was diagnosed with depression, doctors were too quick to put him on drugs and he suffered really bad side effects from the medication. Doctors blamed the side effects on deterioration and continued to prescribe them to him, he gained weight, lost his job, lost his place and school as well as all of his self-worth. He lost his grandmother, his favourite cat and his future. Nobody listened to his subjective experience. He was just a diagnosis with one cure: more drugs.
Eventually, after years of this, he went to the ER because he wanted to kill himself. He wanted someone to listen and to stop him. But alas, after 2 hours waiting in the ER’s waiting room (after telling a nurse he wanted to kill himself), he left and jumped in front of a subway train.
Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, his mother could see how OBVIOUS it was that the drugs were causing his symptoms and that the doctors (and other healthcare professionals) weren’t paying attention to what he was saying. Everything was dismissed because he was ‘ill’. That’s something ‘they’ would say, putting him into a category with other mentally ill people. He was stigmatized.
This gave me a lot to think about. To investigate stigmas in the healthcare system. It seems so obvious, but when you are involved it’s much harder to see and point out without being told by someone, ‘hey, pay attention! There is something seriously wrong here’. I want to make myself more aware to it. To my own prejudices, others’ prejudices and situations where discrimination may occur. I don’t want a patient/client to feel stigmatized. As a healthcare provider, we should be better than that. It’s not about us. It’s about the patient/client. It’s about their story. Their future. Their struggles and subjective experience. They aren’t JUST a patient in room 403. They are Bill, Janet, Martin, Gregory…
That nurse, if she had listened to him and taken him seriously, could have saved his life. That’s really heavy to think about.