Monday, November 16, 2009

To Tell or Not to Tell? That is the Question.

Should patients with psychiatric disorders discuss them openly? Is it better to let it be known like it's no big deal, or to hold on tight to those secrets? We've talked about this a lot when we've talked about the meaning, the stigma, and the consequences of psychiatric labels. It seems to me that some people advertise their problems and are no more worse for the wear: they start talking at a party about how they have bipolar disorder and suddenly they are the magnet for everyone else's bipolar stories. It's refreshing, in a way, how free they feel to be open. Perhaps some of it is career-dependent: certainly it's more permissible among artists and musicians to have suffered, and some problems with mood or substances can be so much a part of landscape as to defy stigma.

Why now am I bringing this up? Carpool today: "We talked about therapy and antidepressants in chemistry." Hmmm, that's not chemistry, shouldn't they be balancing acid-base problems? "And what does your teacher have to say about it?" Apparently the teacher was on antidepressants for years during a difficult time, but she suggested the whole class probably had issues and things to talk about in therapy. Why not?

What do I think? This is a young, well-loved and respected teacher. If she's comfortable telling the kids that treatment has helped her, more power to her. Maybe someday some troubled person will figure Ms. Chemistry was cool with it and will get help. As long as they get to the acid-base stuff eventually.