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Self-advocacy

A great (but saddening) op-ed piece ran in the NYT recently about the experience of a person who has psychiatric illness receiving inadequate medical care in the emergency room.  The author of the op-ed has bipolar disorder and she detailed multiple experiences of frank discrimination by medical professionals.  She reported that when she sought medical care for bona fide somatic problems, these issues were dismissed and even blamed upon her bipolar disorder.

This is hardly a unique experience.  Many people who have psychiatric illnesses know this and as a result are afraid to disclose their diagnoses or – even worse – the medication they’re on.  We all know that every medication has potential side effect and interaction effects with other meds.  Thus, it is extremely important for folks who are on psychiatric medications to be able to accurately report to their treating professionals what they are taking.

It is imperative for patients with psychiatric illness to advocate for themselves in these (and other) situations.  It is sometimes helpful to have your psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional assist you with this.  Therapists can help patients with self-advocacy and, when requested, can contact other treating professionals to give a “more authoritative” report.

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