Mental illness has led to me being treated differently by some statutory agencies
This past week I had a pre-op appointment. to discuss my upcoming surgical procedure, as I sat there I read one of the many charts littering the wall. It gave instructions to the staff about what to do if a patient discloses a mental health issue, it stated that such patients must be seen by the nurse practitioner as part of the pre-op procedure. I can see the benefit of doing this, yet at the same time I also recognised the possibility for stigmatising to occur, as in truth I a person with a mental health issue was being treated differently.
As part of my pre-op I was duly sent to see this member of staff, who clearly had no idea about my own condition which really didn’t help me. Try explaining Dissociative Identity Disorder to a nurse practitioner who has absolutely no idea, it wasn’t easy.
The various staff I saw made me feel judged, judged because I have self harmed by cutting in the past, as the point was rather laboured to me that I couldn’t have any open wounds when I attend for the surgery. The fact I have a care package also raised a few eyebrows and yet I doubt they would be like this if I had a physical disability. This was just my pre-op I still have to face the ward and surgical team who will I am sure see the rather large M placed on my file.
In truth having a mental health condition has led to me being treated differently and not always in a positive way, and I find this concerning especially in a hospital setting.
All of this has led to me thinking about the times when I have been treated differently by statutory agencies because of my mental health, I thought I’d share some of these occurrences with you.
When I hurt my foot two years ago, I needed to stay in hospital and as I had a care package it was decided that my support workers at the time would have to come too. Imagine if you can being on an open ward surrounded by other patients and having a person glued to your side, it certainly doesn’t make it easy to fit in. Now don’t get me wrong it was helpful at times to have someone there who understood my condition, but the nursing staff assumed they could abdicate any responsibility to understand my mental health issues as a result.
When the support workers were late one day the nurses seemed unhappy with the situation and were in fact concerned that they might have to deal with me, so much so that I felt like a leper.
Failing to take responsibility for me as a patient meant I was left vulnerable and isolated and to be blunt treated differently in a negative way.
When I have had interactions with the police as a result of either leaving hospital or home, or when there has been concern for my welfare I can recall receiving a different approach dependent upon the situation and the police force. My mental health has played such a role in this, it has been the key factor in how I have been dealt with.
One police force, not my local one, were rude, arrogant and at times very unhelpful, they treated me differently and all because I was a patient in a psychiatric facility. Some officers clearly held stigmatising views of mental health and treated me in a manner than reflected this. I can recall once leaving a hospital in their area shortly after being placed on a mental health act section, the police officer who found me was none too happy and he told me so.
“I have better things to do with my time than deal with nutters like you” he said, as he and his colleague roughly manhandled me into the back of a police van and locked me in the cage. I wasn’t fighting, I was crying, deeply distressed and desperate to just not go back to the hospital which was in chaos, I wasn’t being rude, or shouting in fact I recall I just held my small teddy bear and sobbed, deep pitiful sobs. I begged not to go in the cage which terrified me, but he just wouldn’t have it, he was unhappy at having to deal with me and he wanted to show me that.
I was frisked, put in the cage and locked in for the journey back to the hospital, on arrival at the hospital I was manhandled out of the cage and taken into the ward. My feet didn’t touch the ground as these two rather burly policemen carried me into what was a normal acute unlocked psychiatric ward.
I hated the way I was treated it was so unlike my own police force, and I kept feeling like I was bad, for a victim of abuse this treatment was not in the least helpful.
Now looking back I wonder if he would treat other missing people in this way, of course the answer is no, I was treated differently because I had a mental health condition.
When I was self harming significantly and required treatment, the local Accident and emergency department were mainly unable to deal with me in any manner of decency. There were odd exceptions but in the main I was treated with disgust and seen as a nuisance. Now if I had broken a limb or had fallen no one would have dealt with me in this way, so why do it to someone in distress who has a mental health issue.
My mental health condition has led to me being treated differently on so many occasions, and why, when at least one in four people suffer mental health problems isn’t this all a bit unfair. Isn’t it time we stopped the stigma, and put an end to the different treatment.
It’s not impossible, some people are able to accept me without attaching a label or treating me differently.
My local police force were thankfully always efficient, kind, compassionate and caring. They seemed to understand mental health to a point and were always helpful and resourceful, in truth I think at the time I didn’t fully appreciate this but I do now. If they can do it, why can’t other forces it isn’t that difficult really, just train your officers and stamp out stigma.
When I had to be admitted in hospital for neurological tests a few years ago in London, the staff dealt with me absolutely fine, they didn’t assume I was a pariah or that I had 3 heads. They just accepted me for who I was a patient in their department undergoing tests. Why can’t all hospitals do that it just requires training.
I know people will feel the need to take account of my mental health issues when they deal with me especially statutory agencies, and it can be helpful for them to do so. However please can it be in a positive manner and not a stigmatising one, can I be treated just like everyone else and not differently.
I guess my surgery next week is a good opportunity to see if the hospital and their surgical team are able to deal with me in a fair and considerate manner and not treat me differently, all because I ticked a box that said yes I have a mental health issue. Guess we will have to wait and see, I will let you know how it goes.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014