"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet"
- Billy Shakespeare
Frontier Psychiatrist asked, "Whether I should describe people who use psychiatric services as 'patients' or 'clients'/'service users'."
We asked in-patients, day hospital patients, out-patients, home visits and day respite patients what they wanted to be called. We then did it all again, months later. We then did it across the entire district. We then asked a carer forum. We then asked another carer foruim. We then asked the local Alzheimer's Society branch. Locally MIND isn't that active with older adults, but we asked them anyway. The response was almost 100%, we should address them as "patients."
To stop stigmatising mental illness with different terminology, to stop them being called "clients" (which resonates with hairdressers, prostitutes and lawyers) or "users" or "service users" which our older adults associated with drugs, "patients" it was.
Locally, if a pregnant woman is going to her antenatal check up, or a bloke is going to see a surgeon for a vasectomy, or a mum is going to have her diabetes sorted out, they're all referred to as patients and all attend an out-patient clinic. The woman is well, undergoing a normal life event. The man is well, seeking an elective operation for a common life choice (on contraception). The mum is currently well but has a life long propensity for becoming unwell if she stops her medication or has physiological stressors. All are referred to as patients.
Why, if you're well but experiencing a common life event but wonder if all's normal (e.g. memory problems with age, is it just age or is it dementia), or seeking elective management and interventions (e.g. help with substance misue) or seeking assistance in the management of a long term problem but you're currently well (like schizophrenia) should you be overtly named and labelled differently from the pregnant lady, the bloke seeking a vasectomy or the diabetic mum?
Isn't that wrong?