Friday, July 24, 2009

I am a patient

Why is it that when someone is mentally ill and receiving services, they tend to be called a "consumer" or "client", yet when seeking services for a physical ailment, you're always called a "patient"?

I'm not sure if I've ever posed this question on my blog before. I know I posted here about how it irks me when the term "behavioural health" is used to refer to a psychiatric hospital. I know I've had discussions about the whole consumer versus patient designation with the members of the NAMI affiliate I volunteer for, because NAMI almost always refers to people with mental illness as consumers and it really pisses me off.

Any time a person is receiving treatment for an illness, they are a patient. That's what the definition of "patient" in my handy-dandy dictionary says. Do NAMI and other organizations that are working to fight stigma, working to get people to view mental illness in the same vein as they do physical illnesses, not see the disservice they are doing when they themselves use different terminology when describing those afflicted with mental illness? Using the term consumer completely negates the fact that there is an illness associated with services being rendered. To me that is just further stigmatizing.

A consumer is someone that goes to the store and buys a roll of toilet paper to wipe their ass after taking a shit. A consumer is someone that goes to the dog groomer to get Fido a bath and his nails clipped. A consumer is someone that goes to a strip club and buys a beer and a lap dance. And while yes, a consumer is technically someone that pays for medical treatment, most people don't see themselves as consumers when they walk into their doctor's office to get help for their cancer, heart disease or diabetes. They do not see themselves as consumers when they head to the pharmacy for that life-saving insulin or even their Viagra. They see themselves as patients.

So...I am A PATIENT each time I step into my therapist's office. I am A PATIENT each time I visit my psychiatrist. I am A PATIENT each time I can force myself to get prescriptions filled for psychotropic meds and A PATIENT each time I swallow one of those pills. I am NOT a consumer when seeking these treatments, I am A PATIENT, just like everyone else with a medical condition.

2 Comments:

Blogger Anonymous Drifter said...

I've always felt the same way about this. The term 'consumer' has always bothered me. It made me feel like I bought the illness I have.

8:48 AM, July 25, 2009  
Blogger anna‚ô• said...

Yeah, I don't like that either. Right before I quit nursing, the hospital I worked at started referring to patients as consumers. It's all about money these days. No one gives a fuck about people anymore.

8:57 PM, July 25, 2009  

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