Why have I called my work The Secret Psychiatrist? I have been asked this question a few times by family, colleagues and those that write in to me.
I first got the idea last year because of two main reasons. Firstly, I have noticed that amongst my patients within psychiatry they feel embarrassed and ashamed that they have a label of mental health, unlike the patients I have worked with in the emergency department that seem to wear their scars purely as though they are war wounds. This is never the case with my mental health patients. In addition, I have taken note that a few relatives have felt shame for their loved one being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. There still remains an unfortunate stigma amongst mental health patients being admitted to a psychiatrist ward rather than to a medical/surgical ward.
Why is this? I asked a few different individuals on my travels and I got the same answer: people are afraid that those with mental health are dangerous. I was shocked to have found this, as this is one strong myth I wish to extinguish. Just because you have a mental health diagnosis does not, and I repeat, does not mean that equates you to being dangerous. It is dangerous that some of the general public quite frankly think in this way about psychiatric patients!
Secondly, there is also stigma amongst my colleagues for having their own label of mental health. Unfortunately, the stigma is very real amongst doctors, as patients often have concern when a doctor has a diagnosis of mental health as though they would not be able to perform their job role to an excellent standard. I could stand here and argue as to why this is completely wrong, but I see no point as I expect that to be obvious and expect the public to realise on their own that individuals having mental health problems, doctor or otherwise, does not in any way discredit you in what you job role is on life or how you fit within your society. This barbaric way of thinking does need to leave us, and be replaced with that having a mental health label in no way should ever alienate you in your life.
We should never be ashamed of our health, and should feel comfortable to reach out and speak out. Most of all we as a community should embrace all affected and help these individuals get the appropriate support in place. After all, if you saw somebody on the street bleeding you would run to their aid, so why can’t we help those that have an emergency with their mental health?
I keep the title The Secret Psychiatrist, so the stigma of being labelled with mental health can be eliminated and we can be proud of who we are rather than hiding it away like a dirty little secret.