Are some psychiatrists guilty of discrimination?

Michael Burge, a mental health advocate, took time off from his busy schedule to send me a youtube clip broadcast by ABC NEWS and for that I thank him. See the transcript of the clip below.


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: “It’s well known that public stigma is a huge hurdle for those with a mental illness. But, are Australia’s doctors and medical professionals just as guilty of discrimination? A new report obtained by 7.30 (news)reveals disturbing complaints of doctors failing patients. Even the nation’s peak medical body admits there’s a problem. Some patients just aren’t getting the care nor the respect they deserve.”


“In any given year, up to four million Australians fight a mental illness. It’s a path that many are forced to walk, and one that they are forced to walk alone.”

ALEX GULASH: a mental health patient; “It’s just good being able to talk to you about it anyway. Being able to talk about it in general is good.”

MICHAEL BURGE, MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE: “Oh, any time, any time. That’s what friends are for.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “A Brsibane woman Alex Gulash, has endured psychotic episodes and depression over many years.”

ALEX GULASH: “The sorts of things that happened to me were pretty typical of psychosis; I became paranoid, and then it turned into fully blown delusions.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “But her lowest moment came when seeking medical help for what later turned out to be a physical and NOT a mental illness.”

ALEX GULASH” “Because I had a history of mental illness, it was immediately assumed that I was mentally ill and needed to be in a psychiatric unti and take psychotropic medications. I was in a delirium, a very confised delirium and I remember at different times asking people ; can you tell me what’s happening to me? I don’t understand what’s happening. I’m sorry but I’m getting very upset. And this is what I am talking about. This is why I’m here. because of the traume it caused. You have no idea what I experienced in that psychiatric unit, unless you’ve been in one. They considred me to be uncompliant, and said that I was refusing treatment. I had my arm bent up behind my back so far and so painfully that I screamed out loud at the top of my lungs. And I’ve never screamed like that in my whole life – not from pain, anyhow. And then I was told to get up and walk.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “So how common are stories like this, where even medical professionals discriminate against mental health patients?”

ALEX GULASH: “Why should there be such a stigma around mental illness? It’s really just caused by ignorance and fear.

HAYDEN COOPER: “Advocates like Michael Burge believe it’s all too common.”

MICHAEL BURGE: “We’ve all been subject to, or on the receiving end of some condescending, patronising, tokenistic, intimidating,discriminating institutionlized attitudes.”

RACHELLE IRVING, MENTAL HEALTH COUNCIL: The behavior of mental heealth carers is even more stigmatic than that of the general public which is a very disturbing factor that has to be dealt with.

HAYDEN COOPER: In a landmark new study, the Mental Health Council has set out to quantify the problem. In a survey of 400 patients and 200 carers: 29 percent of patients report feeling shunned or avoided by health professionals. More than a third were advised to lower their expectations in life because of their mental illness. And this applied mostly to patients with schizophrenia, personality disorder, post-tarumatic stress disorder and depression.

Almost half of mental health carers believe doctors behave differently when they discover a mental health history. There are complaints of poor care which has been closely followed by psychiatrists. But psychologists fare the best.

The report includes the traumatic personal stories of mental health consumers.

MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER 1: “I’m very nervous about sitting in a hallway with MENTAL HEALTH plastered against the wall behind me in a public area.”

MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER 2: “I was in the emergency area of the hospital and overheard a treating doctor asking another doctor -if it was full moon!”

MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER 3: “The staff’s attitude towards me changes when they realize I have a history of mental illness. – It’s as if they think they can catch it from me.”

MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER 4: “We sat in a room listening to a psychiatrist tell our 18-year-old daughter that she should stop expecting anything fron life because she has a mental illness.”

RACHELLE IRVING: The attitude of the mental health carers as far as stigma is concerned, is even worse than that of the stigma meted out by the regular community, which is very disturbing to us.”

MICHAEL BURGE: Countless numbers of times I’ve heard stories of consumers being told; “You are never going to get out of this hospital. You’ll never be off medication. You’ll never have a real job. You’ll never be able to look after yourself properly in the community without support. In other words, they’re giving the prohecy of doom to people who go to them for help. They don’t instill any hope in them whatsoever.”

DR. STEVE HAMBLETON, AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: “The first failing is acknowledging that there is a problem.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “The Australian Medical Association, via its president, is up front about the system’s failures.”

STEVE HAMBLETON: “It’s a small number of people and it’s a voluntary survey, so you will get the extreme views but some of those views have revealed a problem that we need to respond to. We have to recognize that stigmatization by health care providers actually impairs the clinical working relationship between professional and mental health consumer.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “The Mental Health Council will now surey professionals to find out if more training will fix the problem.”

RACHELLE IRVING: “It’s terrible and I think that we need to try and work out why, as a first step – and then move on from there. But, this is not acceptable.”

ALEX GULASH; “There are a lot of good people who work in mental health.”

HAYDEN COOPER: “As for Alex Gulash, she hopes her experience can help patients and doctors alike and fix the failures in the way those who need help the most, are treated.”

ALEX GULASH: “What happens is that they immediately see you within that filter. You’ve got a label on your forehead. Psychiatric patient, a person with a mental illness and they see everything within that context.”

MICHAEL BURGE; “The people with a lived experience, may forget exactly what you’ve said to them. They may even forget exactly what you did. But they will never, ever, ever forget how you made them feel.”

This entry was posted in Schizophrenia on by .

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. My aim in blogging is to let others see how a loving family, with a father and husband who is able to give unconditional love, can help the family cope. Many call me the blogging grandma.'

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