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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Definition of a Patient

Psychiatry is the only medical specialty that refers to their patients as "survivors," "people with lived experience," "clients," and "consumers."  Are these alternative titles of recipients of mental health treatment really helpful to those with mental illness? The title "survivor" suggests that the recipient of mental health treatment was traumatized from being involved in the mental health system. The title "person with lived experience" suggests that the recipient of mental health treatment was never really mentally ill. Using these titles when referring to recipients of mental health treatment upholds anti-psychiatry groups' belief that mental illness is not real. 

Schizophrenia, severe depression, severe anxiety, and bipolar disorder are real illnesses. Referring to these as "conditions" is disrespectful to psychiatry. Doing this gives psychiatry a pseudo-scientific appearance and undermines positive progress. For decades, psychiatry has had a reputation in the medical community as being less than medical, or even unworthy of respect in some instances. Psychiatry and its strides, albeit slower to come by than other medical disciplines, does not deserve a pseudo-scientific reputation. Organizations dominated by peer specialists (people with a history of emotional distress expected to help patients) rarely refer to recipients of mental health care as “patients." It is not stigmatizing to use language that accurately reflects the relationship between those giving and receiving care.

The titles "client" and "consumer," suggest that recipients of mental health treatment are self-directing their treatment courses. These terms especially isolate those people with mental illness who lack the capacity to direct their treatment plans. When I authorize an involuntary transport to a hospital for someone, I view this person as a patient who is unable to make the appropriate choice about her or his own treatment. 

I will refer to those I help as “patients” in this book to accurately reflect my work. I will do this to give psychiatry, and its recipients of care, the respect that they deserve. 

1 comment:

Maria DeVito said...

Much agreed! The terms 'client' and 'consumer' not only insult the patient; they insult the profession.