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To the Medical Professionals Who Baby Me Because I Have a Mental Illness

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Dear doctors, nurses and other health professionals,

I have a mental illness. I am not a child. Please, don’t patronize me. Yes, I may be nonverbal at the height of my anxiety, but this does not mean I don’t understand what is going on around me.

Please, offer me the same care and compassion you would offer to any other patient. Give me options. Real options. Involve me in my treatment. Explain things to me so I know what treatment I’m receiving and why. Don’t baby me. Don’t treat me like I don’t understand. I do.

By treating me like a child, you are increasing my anxiety. You are making me feel worse rather than better. You are making me feel inferior and like my problem is not being taken seriously. By treating me like this, I am less likely to ask for your help in the future.

By not involving me in my treatment, by not explaining things and giving me options, you are increasing my fear and resistance to any help you are trying to offer me. I will become less cooperative when you don’t tell me what is happening, and this makes life difficult for both of us.

Think about it, would you accept medical intervention and medications if you didn’t know what they were for or what the expected outcome was to be? The same applies to me and any other mental health patient. Tell us what is going on. We are capable adults who can make our own decisions regarding our health so long as all the relevant information is provided. You might be surprised at how often we agree with you once it’s explained to us.

Please, know it has taken every bit of strength I have to come to you for help. Of all the people I have come across in my life, it is the medical community that has been the most stigmatizing toward my mental illness. I don’t think you realize how deeply your words, attitude and mood impacts me as your patient. It could literally make or break me. So if I’m standing in front of you asking for help, then I really need it. I’m pushing away my fear of a negative reaction and hoping you will be understanding.

Please, respect me as an adult and don’t invalidate my thoughts and feelings. If you do this, then we can all get on with the job of solving the problem together.


A frustrated mental health patient

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on The Nut Factory.

Originally published: October 11, 2016
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