Doctors Are Affected by Mental Illness Stigma Too

April 27, 2015 Andrea Paquette

Doctors are affected by mental illness stigma. Read about my experience with mental illness stigma in doctors and let me know what you would do about it.

Doctors are affected by mental illness stigma, and, as mental health consumers, we run into this problem time and time again. I have heard countless horror stories of mental illness stigma affecting doctors and other mental health professionals, who are part of the patient's journey. However, there still remains a number of doctors and medical professionals who stay true to their passion for medicine. Here are some of my best and worst experiences with doctors who are affected by mental illness stigma and the ones who aren't.

My Experience with Doctors Affected by Mental Illness Stigma

Subsequent to being released from the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, I was left to sit alone on a bench in a psychiatric ward for two hours waiting to see a psychiatrist. I felt like a drowned rat, and met a doctor affected by mental illness stigma.

She was extremely cold toward me and I was forced to rehash the fact that I had tried to commit suicide days earlier and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few months earlier. It was as if she never even read my chart and she looked me up and down with a judgemental eye. She simply said that I would be seen by another psychiatrist as she did not feel she could help me, but she literally spent a total of five minutes with me. I gazed at the floor with a blank stare with helplessness in my heart.

Doctors are affected by mental illness stigma. Read about my experience with mental illness stigma in doctors and what I do about it.After some time, I was transported to my room and I experienced not only doctors affected by mental illness stigma, but also stigma from a number of nurses who worked on the psychiatric ward. During my one month stay, I often played my music quietly in my room, listening to soft female voices that soothed my mind. On one occasion, a certain nurse yelled at me, and actually stormed into my room to switch the stereo off. I did not have any headphones, it was midday, and barely anyone was on the ward. She then began to bully me and moving forward, she criticized my every move.

On a separate occasion, having been in bipolar psychosis for weeks, I had not taken a shower for quite some time, and I had actually been afraid of the shower as it appeared looming and scary. Eventually, I applied my makeup and washed my hair, and as I stepped onto the ward, a number of the patients commented on how beautiful I looked, but the nurse voiced that I was vain and conceited. She was critical and unhappy with my appearance, when it was actually a clear sign that things were looking up for me, mentally.

Mental Illness Stigma Does Not Affect All Doctors

Luckily, there are many doctors who are not affected by mental illness stigma and I have been very lucky to work with a few of them during my mental health journey. Currently, I have been seeing my psychiatrist for over 13 years, and when he approached me for the first time, I hung my head low staring at my feet, but I recall hearing a very kind voice.

He asked me, if I was okay and how I was feeling. He offered to talk to me and did for quite some time. He shared the benefits of psychiatric medication, but also the side-effects, which had never been discussed with any other doctor in my past. He is definitely not a doctor affected by mental illness stigma.

He also referred me to a psychiatric nurse, who has been extremely helpful on countless fronts, and she is an amazing individual, who treats me with respect and dignity. She has not only become a respected medical professional in my books, but a friend, and I trust and care about her deeply.

I have learned that doctors are affected by mental illness stigma, as are a number of medical professionals, but there are the gems who see us as equals in creating and maintaining our own mental health wellness. I do not take it personally when doctors are affected by mental illness stigma as I know it is not about me, but it is their own issues, biases and judgements. There are many things that we can do if we come across doctors who are affected by mental illness stigma, and I was curious, what would you do?

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APA Reference
Paquette, A. (2015, April 27). Doctors Are Affected by Mental Illness Stigma Too, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Andrea Paquette

Jann Becker
August, 20 2015 at 8:10 pm

In my experience, my impressive med list brings out the worst in other physicians. I had an ob/gyn tell me "You're on a boatload of meds," this from a doctor I'd considered a friend. From their point of view, a patient in her 50's taking 10 prescriptions, many of them for drugs not familiar to the doctor, has to be getting over-medicated and most likely does not need most of them. Any new distress has to be a side effect of drugs she's taken for years.
The idea that it takes a lot of energy to be "compliant" with that many scripts, taken at various times of day and night, with or without food, etc, never seems to cross the new MD's mind. They resent the extra effort it will take to calculate interactions so that they do not accidentally poison me. Or, of course, the stigma of taking multiple drugs barely disguises the stigma of needing them in the first place.

July, 27 2015 at 10:39 pm

These so called "professionals" are very much unaware, untreated or unsuccessfully treated mentally ill people themselves. It's a cold, hard fact and very freightening to come to terms with when you're trying to get help for yourself.

Dr Musli Ferati
May, 2 2015 at 12:45 am

On behalf of mental health month, I want to access the importance of therapeutic alliance during psychiatric treatment of patient with any mental disorder. Each denigration behave of psychiatric staff toward their patient ruins satisfying treatment of psychiatric patient. Moreover, scornful attitude of doctors to their mentally ill patients damage fundamentally mental health service. Empathic treatment of psychiatric patient introduces to good and successful therapeutic effect. There isn't any prejudice from doctors and their assistance team in the complex process of current psychiatric treatment and management of mentally ill patients. Shortly, doctors who has got any humiliating conduction toward psychiatric patient must give up their noblemen profession. Psychiatric profession and atavism view of point to mentally ill person is incompatible with current mental health system. So, it ought to denounce each doctor with dislike character everywhere and in any time. Otherwise, psychiatric treatment would be incomplete and of temporary effect with many bad consequences for metally ill person and their community.

May, 1 2015 at 5:14 pm

I don't think it's just a professional stigma. I've had the police fail to respond to my calls for help because they thought I was "crazy". I was assaulted in my home after calling twice, I called again and they still didn't come. And when I drove the guy to the police station with 2 black eyes and handprints around my throat, they still did nothing - filed it as a "Disorderly Person". I've been brushed off by my kids schools when I have concerns about them, doctor's who stop looking for causes when they find out I'm under the care of a psychiatrist, a judge who blew me off when I was having a panic attack. Having mental illness means I just don't matter and can't get help with anything.

April, 30 2015 at 3:41 pm

It's gotten to the point I will not ask for help. I can't go through the judgments and the uncaring attitudes anymore. They don't care and they don't want to help. They act like I am a burden to the all ready over burdened system. I can't even get help for physical emergency because my file has that I have a mental illness. As soon as they see that I am told it's just anxiety. So unless I've lost a limb I don't plan on ever going back to a hospital.

April, 30 2015 at 3:39 pm

This post screamed at me as I scrolled down the page. Further confirmation that the mental health system is broken and needs immediate repairs. In my early twenties, I had a similar episode. I wrote about it in my blog Recently, a psychiatric nurse loudly smacked her gum, gripped her pencil with a death grip and wrote quicker and quicker. She was angry because I wasn't answering her questions the way she wanted. At one point she shouted, "Spit it out!" I was in the middle of severe psychosis as a result of PTSD. The flash of her eyes scarred me and encouraged the frightened kid within to further disassociate. My current counselor is a blessing and is a shining example of a survivor turned healer who sees past the stigma. They are out there, but unfortunately there are too many people in this profession who stigmatize.

April, 30 2015 at 1:00 pm

I work in a hospital (psych evaluator in the ED) and the mental health stigmas are all around. Doctors, nurses, techs, security guards....they all have judgements about the patients I see and unfortunately they are vocal about them. it's hard to try and reeducate them time and time again, but I know I have to so the stigmas are not perpetuated.

April, 30 2015 at 10:00 am

I have come face to face with quite a bit of this. I've always explained it to my spouse as being,"treated like a lab rat." I have had some truly incredible doctors though and those doctors have kept me alive. Anytime I walk into an office and feel less than I walk out. That's exactly what I do. I also write honest reviews for doctors on the major websites because I know I depend on those for guidance when looking for a doctor so others might be doing the same. Ultimately though, I walk out. If I am ever going to try and help break the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses I don't have time to waste. I need a good doc to help keep me healthy. :-) thank you for sharing!!

April, 27 2015 at 9:22 pm

I'm quite certain that stigma/discrimination does exist within the medical profession and elsewhere as I have experienced it first hand on a couple of occasions when I was in hospital.
When I got out I was very lucky to have a found a kind, caring, black pdoc from Africa who came to Canada via England. I'm sure knows all to well about discrimination... No doubt that is what makes him so understanding

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