The Stigma of Mental Illness Extends to Healthcare Providers, Too

I was reminded of all this, all these problems within the mental healthcare profession, as I was discussing my eventual (maybe) return to my career with my own therapist, to whom I will refer as “Boy Wonder”.

Aside #4: No, not to his face.  He is, in fact, the same age as my older son (hence, the ‘boy’).  I think he’s an excellent therapist (hence, the ‘wonder’).  Just as I would never address my pcp as “Dr. Wonderful”, so I do not address “Boy Wonder” as such.  These titles are for my brain, and this blog, only.

His comment to me was to the effect that it was going to be hard “transitioning to the other side of the desk”.   “Admitting to having a mental illness is the kiss of death for therapists, you know that,” he added.

Aside #5: “The other side of the desk” was how I have referred to my position now as client, rather than therapist.

He wasn’t trying to discourage me.  He was just stating a fact.  That, despite there being many mental healthcare professionals who have a mental illness, the perception is that none of us have one.

None of us are allowed to have one.  We are all better adjusted than our clients, and we all have perfectly balanced lives with healthy relationships. Or so we claim.

“You would almost have to volunteer as a peer support person in order to prove you have recovered,” he advised.  “Otherwise, how are you going to convince someone to hire you?”

Mind you, we are not talking recovery as in “recovering from substance abuse”, “overcoming antisocial behavior” (such as stealing or physical aggression or other offenses), or even behaving unethically or inappropriately with patients/clients.

No, the “recovery” is from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that were both results of a domestic violence situation from which I eventually escaped.  (See my November, 2014 post about that horrific time in my life)

And when those disorders were treated with antidepressants, the symptoms then morphed into those of bipolar disorder.

Aside #6: One of the documented side-effects of antidepressants – and you can read this in the literature written by the pharmaceutical companies themselves – can be mania.  It is my belief that this is what happened to me, and not just this time but way back when I took my first antidepressant (Prozac) in my 30s.  Prozac was introduced to the market in 1987.

He’s right.  I would actually have to prove to an employer that I was fit to work as a mental health professional.  And even if I could convince someone of that, there is still another stigma I would have to overcome…

…the stigma of being a therapist who became a victim of domestic violence.

The implication is that my judgment was so screwed up that I got involved with someone who turned out to be a violent, dangerous man.

Therapists who wouldn’t dream of laying blame on a client’s victimization on the client – to his or her face, anyway – have no problem blaming a clinician who found herself in the same situation.

We are “supposed to know better”.  I caught this phrase as I was rounding the corner at my last job, in a conversation between the clinic director and her sister-in-law who also worked there, about me.

This is, unfortunately, common.  And I really don’t know how, or if, I am ever going to address it.

Actually, until my last appointment with BW (Boy Wonder), I hadn’t even considered this as a factor in returning to work.  But it is, and it’s a big one.

And perhaps it really is time to consider changing careers – and try to figure out what else, if anything else, I am good at besides counseling/assessment/group therapy.

That makes me incredibly sad, a bit scared, but maybe I ought to see it as yet another opportunity to reinvent myself.  I’m just not sure where my talents lie, and I don’t know how to go about finding that out.


Today’s weirdness comes from Fox News, and I am posting it because it shows just how stupid they are:

“Strange ‘Figure’ Spotted by Mars Curiosity Rover”.  Their “science” section states that they think it’s a piece of dirt, but then asks, “What do you think?”   Because anything that sounds kinda “sciency” is “science news” – even if it’s pseudoscience.

Heck, like it’s not amazing enough that we sent a robot to Mars!  I think that is really exciting. And I think it speaks volumes about the lack of interest in science – or lack of education in science – that a lot of people have, that they don’t find it interesting and have to make up things like Martians.

And, from CNET, here is NASA’s explanation: ” ‘Woman’ in Mars Rover Pic is Not Quite as She Appears”  She would be really, really tiny, “about the size of a pebble”, according to the article.

For all you psychology trivia nuts, the term for seeing things like Jesus’ face on toast, clouds that look like your dog, or mini-women on Mars is “pareidolia”.

Maybe I will also have a “word of the week” section here, just to keep my old mind sharp.

Recommendations for this week?  Another weird website, called “Museum of the Weird”.  Yes, it’s a website of an actual museum in Austin, Texas.  So I guess if you visit Austin and somehow aren’t amazed and enchanted by all the great music there, you can pop in here and get your dose of weirdness.

Honestly, I was going to recommend the book I am currently re-reading, but I couldn’t recall if I had already recommended it…well, here goes, and apologies if this is a repeat:

“Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions – Volume 1”, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project. This is a book that many people – intelligent people, like Carl Sagan – have said was an important treatise on why people believe weird things, how mass hysteria begins, and so on. The rest of the book is there, too.

If you’ve never explored the awesomeness of the Project Gutenberg site, please do!  Free, wonderful books, all for you to read!

Be good.  Be kind.   Read, read, read.





2 thoughts on “The Stigma of Mental Illness Extends to Healthcare Providers, Too

  1. charlies5169

    Great post. Interesting, to say the least.

    The older I get… let me rephrase that… the longer I am around, the less surprised I am by things like this. In fact, it’s almost expected in a way.

    I am realizing that a lot of people are drawn to certain careers/lifestyles, whatever, not particularly because they find it interesting, but because there is some sort of tie-in with their lives or life-experiences.

    I’ve mentioned before about a woman I used to work with who was an amateur therapist. She’d been through AA, and read “Psychology Today”, so obviously she was qualified for… whatever. I suppose that makes you special or something, gives you some sort of right to evaluate and criticize others, because you are now superior and have all the answers… or some such.

    It’s also interesting that you mentioned how some therapists find their clients to be a source of entertainment to be shared with their colleagues.

    Growing up Catholic, I used to wonder if, after a long day of hearing confessions, the priests would get together at night and compare stories. “Hey, I had live one today! Listen to this shit!”

    When I had the incredible nerve to ask Sister Mary Catherine if that sort of thing went on, I got a whack with a yardstick as an answer.

    So once again, to refer to my old basic training drill sergeant… “Can’t get your shit together? Eat some popcorn.”


  2. Victoria Post author

    It’s really shocking, what goes on in treatment team meetings at some places. At the last place I worked, some counselors had nicknames for some of the clients (“Wildebeast” was one, can you even imagine that??), and no one batted an eye or said anything about it. Except, I did say something to them. I mean, how can people shut up and let that continue? It doesn’t matter if the client can hear or not, it’s unprofessional to say the least.

    I was routinely assigned pagan clients because the other counselors were scared of them. One scared them, in particular, because when they took their routine client picture, it happened to have red-eye in it. They were scared of a teenage Wiccan girl because they couldn’t take a decent picture and attributed it to “evil forces”!

    If people knew what “therapists” and their supervisors (who almost always are social workers and not clinicians) got up to and said behind the scenes, I doubt anyone would go for treatment anywhere.

    Liked by 1 person


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