Mental Patients, Other Medical Patients, and The Charisma Factor

There’s a very interesting article from the Irish Times on the difference in treatment mental patients receive as opposed to other medical patients. The title seems to say it all until you start reading the article itself, You don’t bring me flowers…self stigma of mental illness.

A recent study from Britain, carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, found that 51pc of those in medical and surgical wards were in receipt of get-well cards, while for those in psychiatric wards the figure was 31pc.

Over half (52pc) said they did not receive any cards, flowers or gifts when they were last mentally ill — compared with 36pc the last time they were physically ill. This prompted the college to launch get-well cards for those with mental health problems with the greeting: ‘Thinking of you at this time. Hope things improve soon.’

This study was not seen as surprising as two other studies of recent date have had similar findings. One 2004 study mentioned, done by a Dr. Joanne Bromley of Bristol, had the following results to add.

The psychiatric patients received half as many cards as the medical patients. The type of gift given differed also, with medical patients receiving more luxury items, such as chocolates, flowers or books, while psychiatric patients tended to receive practical items such as toiletries, tobacco and food.

The other study involved counting the number of visible cards on lockers over a period of 3 weeks, and finding the psychiatric patients received approximately half the number of cards as the medical patients.

Self-stigma is seen as one of the reasons for this lack of expressed sympathy put forward. The patient, out of shame, may not want it to be widely known that he or she is on a psych unit. I think self-stigma is kind of like low self-esteem, and that the real culprit, the culprit that may have put the person in the hospital in the first place, might have great deal more to do with low other esteem. The patient has been hospitalized for being under appreciated in other words.

On a related subject I googled internalized oppression, and I got this definition from the online Urban Dictionary website.

Internalized Oppression

the process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.

At the heart of this internalized oppression, obviously, is the matter of externalized oppression, or those inaccurate myths and stereotypes as applied to a group of people by people who don’t belong to that group itself.

Wikipedia is even more blunt on oppression.

Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, and anxiety.

And further, on internalized oppression.

In sociology and psychology, internalized oppression is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves.

A resolution is possible to this internalized oppression, and that resolution begins with the realization that comes in an acknowledgment that the true source of many of one’s problems may lay outside of oneself.

When standard psychiatric practice involves doing violence and harm to a person, and you add to this violence and harm a generalized lack of sympathy from friends and family, I’d say that then anger and outrage become the only type of response that makes any sense.