Why we still need to tackle stigma
08 November, 2021
Dr Mona-Lisa Kwentoh
I think there’s a common belief that the only psychiatric illness or mental illness that exists is psychosis. Alongside that is another perception; that people with psychosis should be feared or locked up in hospital.
I would also like to address the notion that treatment for serious mental illness automatically is seen as something draconian. Often people don't understand that under the concept of informal admission you can come to hospital and leave as you wish. Some people assume you can’t get help at all.
People don't understand that one of the goals of mental health treatment could be offering you treatment in an environment that you're used to and helping you get better. People also don't understand the concept of recovery especially if you have psychosis.
I’d like to dispel the myth that once you experience psychosis that's it. You cannot recover. But there are so many examples that you could give people, not just cerebrally but even normal day-to-day people who have recovered from an episode of mental illness and they're living their lives as normal. So, there's so much to talk about that people can gain from.
How a patient first inspired me to choose my career path
The first patient I saw who was experiencing severe mental illness was a man who was experiencing psychosis. And for me, I felt it was a calling because that was the first time deep in my heart, I felt I could contribute to society. I could help somebody on their journey. I knew this man could, with help, get better.
No two illnesses are the same and no two journeys to recovery are the same. It may be the same diagnosis. But the journeys are different. We are all unique in the way that we present. It means our approaches to treatment should be modified so they are patient-centred. Working in general adult psychiatry helps you achieve that.
Standing up for patient rights
Every staff member working in mental health is by default an advocate of patient rights. We live in a society that whether we like it or not we are part of that society. And there is still stigma around I'm sad to say. And part of maintaining everyone's dignity, not just patient dignity is to treat them as you would want to be treated.
I would say to everybody look within your heart and advocate how you want to be treated. And that's how you can maintain dignity for patients. How would you want to receive care? How would you want people to treat you when you are at your most vulnerable?