Thursday, August 07, 2008

Please Don't Eat Me


The usual discussion revolves around whether those who seek treatment for mental disorders should be called "patients" or "clients."

So Roy and I were at a legislative mental health meeting and one of the people giving testimony kept referring to psychiatric patients as "consumers." Consumers? Okay, it's not the first time I've heard the term, but here it was used over and over (and over) again. Consumers. I suppose I think of myself as a psychiatrist who treats patients, and not as a 'provider' to 'consumers.' This meeting took place around the same time that one of our readers commented it was insulting when I referred to a patient with recent and repeated episodes of dangerous behavior as a "time bomb" after she stopped her medications precipitously. I was thinking about the power of language, the innuendo of words and phrases, and I was struck by the repeated reference to Consumers.

It brings to mind, for me, this odd anxiety that my patients will eat me alive. Doesn't one consume food or fuel? Does one consume psychiatric services? What exactly does one consume during a psychotherapy session? What's there at the beginning that's gone by the end?

Can someone please tell me why anyone would want to be a consumer rather than simply a patient? Please don't pass the ketchup....

Oh, and my graphic of the person eating lobster is in honor of Roy's vacation posts from Maine. Please, please, do consume one for me.