It’s Beginning to Feel a lot Like Stigma…..

So let’s just look past the fact that the fact that The Dungeon was housed in the hospital basement, and obviously hadn’t been the attention of any funding since circa 1976. One of the reasons I had *chosen* (I emphasise this, as I really didn’t have much of a choice), my local hospital instead of the state psychiatric facility was the hope that I could be treated for my medical problems as well as psychiatric issues. However, despite the fact that I was newly diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, the medical care I received as a psychiatric patient was appallingly neglectful. So neglectful in fact, that formal complaints were lodged by two of my loved ones, and an investigation was launched.

For starters, we were informed that the Dietetics department would not treat anyone from the psychiatric department.

What the actual crap?

Anorexia anyone? Bulimia? What about people whose mental illness deters them from eating? What about people who just plain FORGET to eat? The ones who don’t have money to eat? What about the vast body of research that links nutrition and mental health? Having spent five months in various institutions I can confidently say that I saw very few people in the grasp of mental illness who had optimal nutritional health.

This is an excerpt of my husbands complaint letter to the hospital.

“Rachael’s condition is food allergy related, and she also has a history of gluten intolerance, as such she should see a dietician. When this was requested on multiple occasions, we were informed that Dietetics would not see anyone from the psychiatric ward. I contacted the Department of Nutrition myself as they confirmed they could not see Rachael while she was a psychiatric inpatient, but could if she was on the Gastroenterology ward. This sounds a lot like stigma and discrimination.”

And this is the response we got.

“The original referral forwarded by the psychiatric registrar to Dietetics was received by the Department on 28th April, 2014. A follow up call alerted the registrar that Dietetics is not funded for patients staying in the psychiatric ward. …I would like to reassure you there is no discrimination of patients staying in the psychiatric ward and should a psychiatric patient deteriorate medically then they are admitted to the main hospital and afforded the same level as care and treatment as any other acutely unwell patient.”

So patients are only afforded the same level of care and treatment IF they are admitted to the main hospital? Sounds pretty fishy to me.

But Dietetics weren’t the only department unwilling to get their hands dirty on the psychiatric ward. The Gastroenterology department were exceedingly reluctant to take the five mile walk down to the ward and actually come and see me. At worst they “forgot”, sometimes they would phone the department instead of actually examining me, and at best they arrived…days late… telling me that my condition didn’t exist because they had never heard of it. (Ok so that only happened once. But SHEESH…dismissive much?!)

The surgical and investigative procedures I desperately needed were cancelled multiple times at the very last moment, and despite being an inpatient for nine weeks they were never actually conducted (the psychiatric team gave up and actually referred me to another hospital for the procedures). One night I was in unbearable abdominal pain and the nurses were extremely concerned about my wellbeing. Despite numerous calls to the out of hours doctor between 8:30 pm and midnight, he didn’t come and see me until 5:30 the next morning, and then it was all “OH MY GOD THIS COULD BE SERIOUS!”

Oh, I could talk for days about the poor medical treatment I was offered at that hospital.

Except for the psychiatric team. They were amazing.

But if there is one thing I have learned from this experience (my “field” research…according to The Hubster ;)), it’s that stigma is still alive. We think things have gotten so much better since One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But discrimination is still occurring, all around us, and in the most unlikely of places.


1 thought on “It’s Beginning to Feel a lot Like Stigma…..

  1. Not parity treatment when you are told: “should a psychiatric patient deteriorate medically then they are admitted to the main hospital and afforded the same level as care and treatment as any other acutely unwell patient.” Obviously you are “acutely unwell” if you are admitted to the hospital! Unbelievable.


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