I feel like I’ve broken some kind of unwritten rule by trying to be open about my mental health disability to members of the academic team.
It’s strange, because you’d think that there would be less mental health stigma on a clinical psychology course, yet in some ways there is more stigma. It’s as if psychologists should somehow be immune to mental health problems (despite the fact that 1 in 4 people have a mental health problem). As trainees, we do not speak openly about our own mental health. Stigma also manifests itself in less subtle ways. The other day, whilst having a group conversation at university, another trainee noticed a packet of diazepam in my open handbag. She looked up at me and awkwardly apologised for looking in my handbag and then zipped it up, to ‘protect my privacy’. Would she have had the same reaction if it had been paracetamol or an inhaler that she’d spotted in my bag? I doubt it.
Luckily, some people are amazingly supportive. My clinical tutor recently told me that my own experience of mental health problems will make me a better therapist, as I know what it’s like to be on the ‘other side’ and receive therapy and take medication. I hope that she’s right.
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