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Prejudice within

  • Ayesha S. Ahmed (a1)
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Abstract
Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Prejudice within

  • Ayesha S. Ahmed (a1)
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eLetters

Re: Reducing Stigma

Stephen Vickers, Approved Social Worker
26 July 2007

A brave, moving and inspiring e-letter Ayesha.

I agree wholeheartedly with your point that psychiatry faces stigma from within. For the longest time I have listened to colleagues beat on about tackling prejudice associated with mental illness whilst at the sametime witnessing them doing the exact things that you describe in your letter.

For far too long people have fooled themselves that anti-discriminatory practice need only involve avoiding the use of certain words and phrases. And as your letter points out, many don’t even do that.

The truth is that stigma and discrimination are inherent in the way we learn, the way we are supervised, and the way we practice. It is only with the courage of people such as yourself that the topic will even be onthe agenda. For that, all of psychiatry owes you a debt of gratitude (evenif they don’t know it yet).

Stephen Vickers
... More

Conflict of interest: None Declared

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Stigma in psychiatry

Rajvinder S Sambhi, SHO ( General Adult Psychiatry)
17 July 2007

Dr Ahmed's moving account of her personal experience of mental illness again highlights the stigma associated with mental illnes and still prevalent in the modern day society.

I have found in my personal experience of working as a psychiatrist in India and the UK that the nature and degree of prejudice associated with psychiatry as a specialty and from the perspective of a psychiatric patient is both qualitatively and quantitatively different in the two societies. From a professional point of view, psychiatry over there is oneof the least preferred specialty among the medical graduates and there would be still a few medical colleges where psychiatry is a part of internal medicine department of the hospital ie not a fullfledged specialty. Nonpsychiatric colleagues would routinely make funny or demeaning comments about the doctors working in psychiatry as if we are just doing the job of restraining the mad only. My own family was stunned to hear when they came to know that I had opted to train as psychiatrist over there. "Is he alright?" was the general reaction. The general public would go to faith healers or spiritual gurus to get the bad spirits or demons out from a seemingly psychotic patient either by performing some rituals or even beating up the patient to extract those spirits as that kind of treatment is more acceptable to those concerned than seeing a doctor who treats the 'mad'. When the spiritual guru or baba recommends seeing a doctor, then the family concerned would agree to that. People caneven be so influenced by that healer that they can even agree to get a floridly psychotic female married in that state, only to suffer the consequences of that decision later on. Then the expectation from the psychiatrist would be to cure the disease with either pills or 'electric shocks' in a few days' time because the family would not wish the whole village to know that one of their members is being treated in a mental hospital.This kind of description applies to a significant percentage of population in that society.

People are definitely more open and knowledgeable about the mental illnesses over here. Also they are active partners in their care provided by mental health professionals. But it won't be an exaggeration to say that stigma in psychiatry whether as a doctor, a patient or a patient's family persists universally even in the twenty-first century whether it is the east or west.
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Reducing Stigma

Obianuju Ugochukwu, Consultant Psychiatrist
16 May 2007

I was moved when I read your story. I think you have done a lot to reduce stigma just by sharing your experiences. I have always believed that mental illness should be treated like any other illness such as diabetes and if one needs to take medication for diabetes it will not be considered as failure so why should mental illness. We all need to do ourbit to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Well done for taking such a brave step. ... More

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