Mental Health Advocacy for a Loved One
Mental health advocacy for a loved one fights the stigma that exists in the most unlikely places. The past few weeks were quite overwhelming. Following a stay in a psychiatric ward, my husband was released. We dealt with multiple issues during that stay, including poor psychiatric care and a bizarre meeting with a highly unethical psychiatrist to discuss said care. In short, be aware that psychiatric hospitalization, while very important, also may lend itself to abuse of power. Involve yourself in your loved one's care because mental health advocacy for your loved one is crucial.
Mental Health Advocacy for a Loved One Is Critical When Stigma Shows Up Where Least Expected
Mental health advocacy for my loved one required me to stand up to a psychiatrist. The problems began shortly after my husband was hospitalized when he began describing concerning interactions with the attending psychiatrist. I initially thought that he was exaggerating about his doctor. However, when my husband's stay continued despite significant improvement, I began to be concerned. After learning of several explosive arguments between the doctor and my husband, the last of which resulted in a protective custody order, I drove to the hospital and demanded to speak with the doctor. I responded to a litany of excuses by digging in my heels and finally received permission for a meeting.
I'll admit that I am somewhat biased by the fact that this meeting related to my husband's care, but know this was by far the most concerning interaction with a mental health professional of my entire life. The doctor did not answer a single question of mine during a meeting in which he made highly unethical comments. For example, the doctor told me that he did not want to label my husband with schizophrenia because it would "ruin his future careers, relationships, and would ruin his life." He also told me that my husband had failed as a physician assistant and as a professor.
Mental Illness Does Not Make Your Loved One a Failure
I was shocked. I could not believe that the person caring for my husband uttered these words. I replied that my husband was a great instructor, had good career prospects, and possessed great relationships with his family. I told him that ending a career as a physician assistant did not make my husband a failure. Suffering from mental illness does not denote failure.
He then explained that I should fear for my safety and that of my children if my husband returned home. By then, I was shocked, upset and angry. I asked if my husband would be released soon, to which the doctor laughed and said no. I immediately walked out of the meeting and filed a complaint with the hospital. My husband met with a designated examiner from the state. The examiner said that she had no idea why he was still a patient and he was released.
Be a Mental Health Advocate for Your Loved One's Care
As we left, a nurse apologized for what happened and said they knew it was wrong but felt they couldn't say anything. What then are we supposed to do when our loved ones are mistreated right before our eyes? How should we react when the very individuals who are supposed to be caring for them are instead perpetuating vile stigmas?
I did not write this post to scare you, but to make you aware. Know that, though there are many good doctors, there are some poor ones as well. It is critical to listen to your loved one and follow up with his or her providers to ensure they are receiving proper care. The very nature of psychiatric care and hospitalization lends itself to abuse of power. Be aware that you may find yourself facing the stigma surrounding mental illness where you least expect it. Therefore, be a mental health advocate for your loved one at all times.
Law, M. (2019, June 3). Mental Health Advocacy for a Loved One, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2019/6/mental-health-advocacy-for-a-loved-one
Author: Megan Law
I am so sorry you have gone through similar situations. It is comforting to know that I wasn't wrong in standing up for my husband and disagreeing with the doctor. It is hard though when they are supposed to be the person you go to for answers. It has made us wary of medical professionals too, and now my husband is terrified of ever going back to a psychiatric ward. I just hope after all this that maybe the doctor will be monitored so he cannot do the same to another patient.