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Medical Professionals Need to Stop Making Fun of Psych Patients on TikTok

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I’m writing this article feeling a bit defeated. I am someone who is pretty new to the advocacy world. With that being said, rejection is part of a lot of the conversations I have with people. When my message doesn’t get through to some individuals, I take it extremely hard. I also make the big mistake of thinking that just because I am constantly posting, networking, writing and speaking with others that everyone is hearing my message. I can’t get through to everyone, but there is a group of people I feel I shouldn’t have to butt heads with when it comes to advocating for mental illness. This group of people is medical professionals.

TikTok has become this app where medical professionals go to post details about their jobs that the general public may not know. Most doctors talk about information that pertains to their specialty. Therapists are able to share some signs that you may be in an abusive relationship or list a couple of coping skills for anxiety. Nurses make videos talking about their roles during COVID-19 and even post study tips for future nurses who are about to take the NCLEX.

While there are so many medical professionals putting TikTok to great use, there is also a large group of medical professionals who do not. What prompted me to start writing was unfortunately another medical professional making a joke about having to sedate a psych patient in the emergency room. This one measly clip didn’t trigger me to the point that I felt a whole article dedicated to it was necessary. The hundreds and possibly thousands of TikTok’s I’ve seen, where specifically psych nurses and EMTs are making fun of psych patients threatening to sedate them with injections or implying that sedation is this funny part of their job, is what prompted this article. This once specific video was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’ll mention that none of these nurses or EMT’s are violating HIPPA by posting actual patients — they are essentially “reenacting” patients. They are not legally doing anything wrong so they must be right — right? Wrong.

Making jokes about sedating patients because of their psychotic symptoms is harmful at the end of the day. Autonomy is taken away in these situations. No one wants to lose control of their own body. Having medical professionals laugh about that possibility is a bit off-putting.

Patients usually experience high levels of stress leading up to, during and directly after being sedated. This experience can be traumatic. Patients experiencing psychosis have periods of understanding and can recall events during psychosis — not always, but it happens. Even if our brain can’t remember the trauma, there’s a good possibility our bodies will — most doctors agree that trauma is stored in the body.

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These clips are not telling the whole story. Was the patient a danger to themselves or others? Were other de-escalation techniques utilized before they were sedated? Individuals who see this content, who don’t know any better, start to form a narrative in their head about what it means to seek help for a mental illness during a crisis. They start to assume that if they express their truth, things like automatically getting put into an inpatient treatment facility and being injected with sedation medication is what will happen.

It goes deeper than just jokes about sedating patients experiencing psychosis. It’s the obsession by these individuals to show they have full power over another individual. It’s the other videos where these same medical professionals make comments about teenagers trying to kill themselves for attention or calling people, who are struggling with addiction, “crackheads.” It makes me wonder what the people who have taken care of me have said behind my back — did it affect my treatment?

Seeing medical professionals make fun of their patients (hypothetical or not) creates barriers for trust. I hope to never know the number of young people who will constantly be bombarded with these videos and decide not to seek help in fear of being judged or stripped of their autonomy.

Know that it is always more beneficial to seek treatment than to ignore the problem you may be facing. While there are some medical professionals that make us lose hope, remember that there are so many more that want to see patients with mental illness achieve mental wellness. These doctors, therapists, EMT’s, nurses, social workers and behavioral health technicians are usually some of our biggest advocates.

Some doctors that I follow on TikTok who do a great job of not judging their patients and giving unbiased, helpful medical information are:

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Originally published: June 27, 2020
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