How to Talk to a Psych Patient, outside of the psychiatrist’s office

So what about other practitioners not in the mental health field?  How do they talk to psych patients?  Do you have any stories of your own that you’ve observed or experienced?

Say the cardiologist?  The nurse checking blood pressure?  The patient on a medical unit for a broken hip?  In these, out of context, contexts, psych patients are still treated differently at times than other “medical” patients.

I’ve heard a ton of stories about the ER (emergency room), when a patient comes in with chest pain, for example…

Tears are flowing down Frank’s stubbled face.  He is shaking, and sweating, and is sure he is going to have a heart attack. Everyone takes Frank seriously, that is until they see Frank’s medication list.  Some not so nice words are exchanged, and so forth after that.

Frank’s story and others like it are all bummer stories. But it hits me hard when later, if one such patient was fortunate enough to press the issue and the work up, and later it is found that they were having symptoms of both anxiety and heart disease, and would have died if that wasn’t discovered. I can’t help imagine and remember real people who were not so “fortunate.”

Or a someone is inpatient on the infectious disease ward for a MRSA+ leg cellulitis.  They are, in the hospital staff’s opinions, a sad patient.

Let’s call her Susie.  Susie’s finger never hits the nurse’s call button. She cries alone and people stay away. Who knows why.  Without asking her about her emotional and behavioral symptoms, they practice as if it was assumed that it is normal for someone in her condition to “get a little depressed.”  Susie recovers from her leg cellulitis and is feeling better.  She is feeling good enough in fact to realize that she doesn’t want to live, and hangs herself by the hospital sheets.

How do we talk to a psych patient?  Please speak out!  Tell your stories.  Tell your thoughts!  Good experiences and bad ones.  Good opinions and lesser.

Keep on!