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What's in a name? Views on psychiatric services for older people

  • Fionnuala Kelly (a1), Julianne Reidy (a2) and Gregory Swanwick (a3)
Abstract
Aims and Method

The aim of this study was to provide a name for a psychiatric service for older people in Dublin. A total of 296 individuals (167 doctors, 129 workshop attendees) were surveyed regarding their views on a name for the service.

Results

‘Age-related psychiatry’ was a universally popular term. It was chosen by 43% of general practitioners, 56% of hospital doctors and 44% of the workshop attendees, as one of their top three choices. ‘Psychiatry of old age’, ‘geriatric psychiatry’ and ‘psychogeriatrics' were unpopular with all three groups.

Clinical Implications

Names can gradually become stigmatising over time. This applies to the terms for ‘old’ and ‘psychiatry’. In this survey all groups surveyed rejected some of the terms in widespread clinical use.

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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.
References
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Ashaye, O., Dhadphale, M. & Okore, A. (1996) General practitioners' views of apsychogeriatric service. Psychiatric Bulletin, 20, 140142.
Banerjee, S., Lindesay, J., Murphy, E. (1993) Psychogeriatricians and general practitioners: a national survey. Psychiatric Bulletin, 17, 592594.
Crisp, A. (2001) Changing minds: every family in the land. A campaign update. Psychiatric Bulletin, 25, 444446.
Kirby, M. & Cooney, C. (1998) Setting up a new old age psychiatry service. General practitioner views on the priorities. Psychiatric Bulletin, 22, 228290.
O'Neill, D., Rice, I., Walsh, J. B., et al (1993) What's in a name? Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 41 (suppl.), 192.
Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, p. 216. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Swanwick, G. (2002) Making progress in Ireland. Irish Psychiatric Association Bulletin, 19, 22.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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What's in a name? Views on psychiatric services for older people

  • Fionnuala Kelly (a1), Julianne Reidy (a2) and Gregory Swanwick (a3)
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eLetters

Will renaming the illness decrease the stigma?

Rajeev Krishnadas, Senior House Officer, Old age Psychiatry, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead NE10 9SB
20 April 2006

Dear Sir,I read with interest, the article titled, “What’s in a name? Views on psychiatric services for older people” Psychiatr Bull 2006; 30: 97-100. Authors Kelly et al, very rightly state that the negative conceptualisations that people have of the mentally ill could be changed over time. They also state that technical terms used to describe mental illness may become derogatory with time. At this point in time, as a trainee, there are a lot of questions which pop into my mind, which I thought I should share with you.

The trend of renaming mental illnesses and services is now very common. This has gone to such an extent that we don’t call our patients, “patients” anymore. They are called “service users”.

By giving into this trend of renaming mental illnesses and services, are we trying to suggest that patients should be ashamed of being called patients? That they should not accept the reality of mental illness? It sounds almost as if we ourselves (mental health and medical professionals)are admitting that it is wrong to have a mental illness. It almost sounds as if we are ashamed to call them patients.

In such a context, is renaming an illness going to reduce the stigma attached to it? As time goes on, wouldn’t the new name acquire its own stigma? I am quite sure the term “user” in “service user” would be considered inappropriate with time. Are we aiming for a temporary symptom relief, or for eradication of stigma? Given this approach, where will we go once we have exhausted our vocabulary of all the possible terms? By doing this, are we trying to allay the patient’s anxiety, or are we tryingto ally our own? Since we don’t have much time to spend with our patients,are we trying to find a short cut to psychoeducating (some people considerpsycho and education as pejorative) our patients and public?

Rajeev KrishnadasSenior House OfficerQld age PsychiatryQueen Elizabeth HospitalGatesheadNE10 9SB
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