Taken from an interview with Prakash Masand, M.D.
“My mentor exposed me to the incredible disability and consequence of psychiatric illness and the impact that medications and psychotherapy have on a patient’s quality of life.”
“Does the stigma affect your work?”
“I see stigma reflected in the perceptions of other physicians toward psychiatrists. They don’t regard me, for example, as a real physician. I have actually been asked by colleagues why I am wasting my talent to go into psychiatry because they feel that it is not a desirable specialty. This includes therapists and psychologists who often tell their patients that they are not crazy and do not need to consult with a psychiatrist. This attitude stigmatizes psychiatric illnesses even further. Fighting against the myth is extremely important even today.”
“How do you think that the stigma affects patients?”
“Patients and their parents tend to minimize psychiatric illnesses and put off seeking treatment for as long as they can do so … due to the stigma. Parents are not hesitant to discuss the diagnosis of heart disease or cancer with their friends and colleagues but are extremely ashamed to talk about the fact that they have a bipolar disorder, suffer from a depression or schizophrenia. Stigma against patients is reflected in employment agencies, insurance coverage and even friendships.”
“Long standing ignorance and misunderstanding on mankind’s part re psychiatric illnesses and its treatment is one basic reason for the stigma. Another is the ongoing media reportage due to their sensationalized descriptions of incidents, especially violent ones involving patients suffering from a psychiatric illness. This perpetuates the perception amongst the general public that all psychiatric patients are dangerous. But, that is simply not the case. In addition, the media rarely emphasize how the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients and the reduction in available resources led to homelessness or incarceration for many. Rather than address the tougher societal issues, the media focuses on the sensational.”