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.