Pharmacy students visiting psych hospitals

My third year pharmacy friends have been visiting hospitals this semester as part of their course prac requirements. Today L attended G Hospital, the largest public psychiatric hospital in the state. Afterwards she tweeted,

L: [G Hospital]…not scary at all. Just hell smelly ><

N, another pharmacy friend, then tweeted back to L and asked:

N: Hahaha. Why smelly?

The conversation then continued on from there:

L: idno just a really nauseating smell in the wards…:s are u gng there?

N: Oh ok. Nope, [Children’s Hospital] today, then [H Private Hospital (I’ve been a psych IP here…)] and [Public Hospital (Been a psych IP here too…)]. I miss out. 😦

L: haha it wasn’t tht special…I was expecting it to b way creepier!

N: Haha. I’m still interested, D said he got to see someone with bipolarism.

L: awwhh I got to see nothinnnng. Just couple of ppl wandering around normally 😦

N:  Oh ok lol, guess it depends on luck + the particular week day what you get to see.

Watching this conversation unfold on my timeline…really I just wanted to scream with frustration.

Why were you expecting it to be creepy, L? It’s just a hospital. A place where people who are ill can obtain treatment. What about when you came to visit me when I was inpatient in the psychiatric clinic then? Was that creepy for you? Granted, it was a private hospital and the patients there are generally not as unwell as those in G Hospital. But still.

And oh my goodness N, your friend saw someone with bipolar disorder, or ‘bipolarism’ as you say? And what, people with bipolar are such freaks of nature that you find it so fascinating that someone actually set eyes on this person?! Guess what, chances are you’ve seen someone with bipolar too! People with bipolar and other mental illnesses walk among you every day. At uni, in shopping centres, in your suburb…

L, why are you so disappointed that you only saw a couple of people walking around normally? What did you expect, everyone to be tearing their hair out, screaming and drooling everywhere, running around madly and climbing off the walls or something? It may surprise you, but yes, people with mental illness do actually walk around just like everybody else.

Sadly, these are students in their second last year at uni, in which after they graduate, will be eligible to become fully fledged pharmacists. A couple of years off being regarded as a health professional, and they still have such misconceptions about what people with mental illness look like and how they behave.

I really wanted to respond to their tweets and question them on their beliefs. But instead, I held back. I guess I don’t want to be seen as that one who’s always pulling people up on things, who’s always being too intense and over-sensitive. Then there’s also the awkward factor in reminding people that yes, I am one of them, the people you talk about who are or have been hospitalised for their mental illness.

9 thoughts on “Pharmacy students visiting psych hospitals

  1. I honestly believe their responses are just fear; seeing how *normal* it all is highlights how close we all are to mental illness.
    Of course, it’s borrowing on a legacy, eg, the Bedlam hospital which used to charge visitors a penny to visit to watch the mentals, including to poke with sticks, which itself was in a time where people were hyped into mentalism rather than helped out of it (I’m thinking of the work of Charcot in Paris, where his patients would all, by some uncurious circumstance end up with the same symptoms..
    Just wish any of this rationalisation could take away your hurt of seeing a peer/friend who’d *visited you* in the funnyfarm then making disparaging comments.

  2. These people are such idiots. This story reminds me, although it’s a completely different topic of two girls I once overheard talking on the train. Saying how disgusted they were of people with HIV and that they would never go to africa, because there is a lot of HIV there. Seriously? Like it just floats in the air or something!

    Most people are such morons. It’s actually amazing how dumb they are.

  3. it’s sad your friends were so ignorant about such things. I’v been put in mental institutions for my bipolar disorder and to think people can walk around being soooo fascinated by lil’ old me! wow a real life bipolar! seriously so ridiculous. It really is frustrating to see people who are going to be health professionals buy into the stigma like that.

  4. While I understand that most people have preconceived ideas about what a psychiatric hospital is like which are heavily influenced by fiction, and that most probably think of the secure units only, it’s unsettling to witness future health professionals displaying such a level of ignorance (it goes a long way, though, to explain why it took so long until I was properly diagnosed).
    I’m undergoing treatment at a psychiatric hospital as an outpatient, so I have a very good idea of what it’s like there – and usually, you can’t see a huge difference when compared to non-psychiatric hospitals at all. During the ten months since my first visit there, I’ve only witnessed four people who displayed some kind of behaviour one could possibly categorize as “far enough outside the socially accepted norm to raise eyebrows”. And one of those cases was caused by nicotine withdrawal, because the woman wasn’t allowed to smoke before an examination…

  5. aaaaaggggghhhhhh…..grrrrrr….. I get soooo annoyed with people who’s attitudes are like that. I almost wish that next week they experience mental distress, and then feel the stigma from the other side of the fence. I know how tempting it is to challenge their beliefs, but equally knowing how damaging and vulnerable it can make you feel. Despite my family knowing about most of the last decade of my mental illhealth experiences, they still make ill-informed comments. which is infuriating, and illustrates the uphill battle that we have in educating other people.

    I agree wi urban warrior about the fear element, especially the fear of crossing that thin line between normality and insanity!

    Combat stigma and educate where you can, but look after yourself first and foremost.
    take care.

  6. I’ve been a nurse since 1988- I can’t tell you how horrible & judgmental some health care professionals are when it comes to anything “mental.” – behind closed doors of course. When people say we as a society are more enlightened now and tolerant, I laugh. There is still such a huge stigma attached to anything psychological.

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