I did this guest post for the lovely Lauren over at By Lauren Hayley. I encourage everyone to check her blog out. Every post she writes is amazing, and she addresses some of the toughest things about suffering from mental illness.
The most important thing to me when I go to treatment for my mental illness is how my doctor or therapist treats me, how they act towards me and what they say. Bedside manner, we’ll call it. If my doctor is dismissive of my concerns, or speaks in a way that lacks sympathy/empathy, I get nothing out of the visit. I feel judged. I feel like I should be ashamed of who I am. If, on the other hand, my doctor is kind, caring and concerned, making every effort to listen and encourage, that’s a whole other ballgame.
Compassion in the field of healthcare, especially mental health, is essential for treatment of the patient to be successful. You’re going to get nowhere fast if you stick with a physician whose demeanor, actions and words have a negative influence on you. So what are some of the reasons compassion is so important to those suffering mental health issues?
• Being positive towards the patient can help them become more positive in their own lives. When you treat someone well, they reciprocate this towards you and others. Treating mental health sufferers just like you would anyone else also helps them feel human. Sometimes, those of us with disorders feel alien in the environment we’re in (not UFO alien, just… strange). Put us at ease, treat us like you do everyone else, and we feel more comfortable.
• Kindness and compassion encourages patients to develop relationships and social skills. When you have trouble talking or socializing due to fears brought on by your mental illness, the last thing you need is negative interaction with people. Show us that you care, that it’s okay to speak our minds, and we’ll feel better about socializing and making friends. When you have a positive view of people, you want to get to know them more. Negative interactions discourage this.
• Compassion improves a patient’s mental health through positive reinforcement. Let us know that it’s okay to be who we are, that it’s not abnormal for us to be this way. Reinforce that having a disorder doesn’t mean we won’t be able to live health, fulfilling lives. Be ready to give good examples of mental health sufferers that have lead fulfilling lives, maybe someone you know or a former patient (without giving too many details, of course). Congratulate us on even the littlest of accomplishments and improvements. It makes all the difference.
Finding the right healthcare provider can be difficult, especially when it comes to therapy, but don’t give up hope. It’s so very worth it to find the right physician for you, the one that will display the compassion and kindness you need. I hope that all those suffering mental health issues can find the care and guidance they need. Compassion can heal even the deepest wounds.