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Arjuna Nagendran

Doctor,

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What experiences have made you more comfortable with mental health disorders?

What things make you fearful of mental health disorders? And what experiences have made you more comfortable with it?

In the quest to dispell stigma, how can we help our society grow out of its fear?

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  • Oct 20 2012: My mother suffered from mental illness for most of her life, depression, drug abuse, borderline personality disorder until she finally succeeded in ending her own life when I was 17 years of age. This experience has given me a profound sense of empathy for anybody that has or is currently experiencing mental illness.

    I am now a doctor and I am currently doing a rotation in psychiatry based in the same inpatient unit that I visited my mother in on more than one occasion. I know that because of my past experience I am much more empathetic towards the patients I care for and perhaps I have a little more insight into the impact that mental illness has not just on the patients but also on their families.

    What has made me more fearful of mental health disorders? Since becoming a doctor I understand the reluctance of other health professionals in coming forwards and seeking treatment due to the stigma associated with mental illness. It's not like a broken leg, or even heart failure, these illnesses generally garner sympathy. Mental illness often does not.

    One of the most frustrating parts of mental illness for me relates to my work. Psychiatric notes are kept separate from medical notes (for which there are some good reasons to do this), but at the very least, when I am treating a patient, I would like to know what illnesses afflict their mind as well as their body because the two are not mutually exclusive, they are deeply intertwined and you can not treat one without treating the other. This separation is mostly due to the abhorrent stigma associated with mental illness.

    How can we help society grow out of its fear? A start would be for those who have experienced mental illness, either in themselves or others close to them, to begin conversations, to discuss the stigma they have felt or seen and to be willing to share. I feel this is even more important for people in what are considered "professional" jobs. Sharing is the start...
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      Oct 20 2012: Thanks for sharing Katie. I'm also on my psychiatry rotation at the moment - your points about the seperation of medical and psychiatic notes is something that frustrates me too. It's a bit of a paradox really, because the "good" reasons are to stop any prejudice against the individual, the converse being that you almost perpetuate a distinction by submitting to its effect.

      Sharing is indeed the start - the work done by Ruby is a great example :)
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      Oct 21 2012: Know that you and those like you are very much appreciated.

      Over the years I often visited close family staying in psychiatric hospitals. The few that really care they really do the job and make a difference. I'm gratful to them.
    • Nov 5 2012: Katie. or Dr. Katie, sorry, you earned your title, I, as a person dealing with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorders chronic Reactive Arthritis and recently a diagnosis of Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, that has really hit the depression and everything else hard...anyway as one of thi=ose folks I say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Yes I battle mental illness, as does most of my family, but we can and are still able to live fulfilling productive lives. We just have to bend or break a few of the rules to pull it off. Being WEIRD is just fine with me. Neuropsych eveals put my intelligence at to top enf of the bell curve, way out there in the upper 98-99%. That scares the shit out of me. I always knew I was reasonably bright but nw it explains my wierdness and difficulty relating to others. It explains why I devoured books on ALL topics as a kid. I was always very good at math though I hated it, but I did find it useful for my scientific education and Physics. But all my life , I've been wandering around wondering why I seemed so different and strange to everyone around me. I'm a proud nerd, that thinks differently than other folks. I'm wired differently. And that's JUST fine with me. keeps everyone else on their toes because they never know what the wild eyed bearded weirdo is gonna say or write next. Pair-o-dice!

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