This is the first in a series of doctor stories.
‘It has been said that people with serious mental illnesses who use the public health care system, die 25 years earlier than other patients. Suicide is a big factor that accounts for 30 to 40 percent of early deaths yet 60 percent of people suffering from a mental illness will die of preventable or treatable conditions.’
To all the health care workers out there.
Every mentally ill patient is someone’s wife, someone’s husband, or someone’s son or daughter, or maybe even somebody’s parent. Please listen to what your patients are telling you. Don’t stare at their charts and when the word mental illness jumps out at you, change your attitude to that patient. As I see it, your job is to recognize, absorb, interpret and act on the symptoms. Medicine that is practiced with narrative competence is a model for humane and effective medical practice. Humanizing programs should become a requirement for all health care workers. I feel strongly that DO NO HARM should apply to everyone; even to mentally ill people.
A young man told me that he’d made an emergency appointment to visit an ENT specialist due to a severe ear infection that was causing a level of pain he had not experienced since having gallstones removed. The doctor went through the list of medications he was taking for his schizophrenia disorder and then closed this patient’s file saying; “I feel uncomfortable prescribing anything else for you as you are taking so many meds already. Try Tylenol. Then he indicated that the appointment was over. The following day, the young man’s eardrum ruptured and the hospital doctor told him that he’d been left with minor but permanent hearing loss.