Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Empathy and sympathy

After a two week break, I am back in class. This time I have eight weeks of psychiatry, which I have mixed feelings about. Psychiatry is one subject I have an attachment to, considering my depression, and I for one can genuinely say to a patient that I do know how it feels to have a psychiatric condition. For once I can feel sympathy rather than empathy. Also I take an genuine interest in the subject when others don't (which I will get on to later) and I am a little more devoted to the subject.

Yet this is the time when I cringe about the attitude of my fellow peers. For some reason psychiatry is the subject which is treated with the least respect by the Hong Kong population. The attitude towards psychiatry is bordering on contempt and dislike. People view symptoms such as depression and anxiety as 'normal'; they are part of normal life and should be able to be treated by yourself, without the need of medication and psychotherapy. Unfortunately my father has this attitude most of the time and I have tried explaining it to him, without much success. Psychotic patients are treated as crazy and insane, and not as people with a psychiatric condition which can be cured.

You would think doctors and medical students are better in their attitude towards psychiatry and psychiatric patients but in my view, going through eight weeks of psychiatry doesn't revert the status quo. Fellow peers keep saying that they have been through psychiatry and know what I am going through, which I find a little bit of a lie. It is the equivalent of saying that sitting in a car makes you able to drive a vehicle, which isn't true. Other doctors follow the same lines as the Hong Kong population, which is why Hong Kong is way behind other countries in terms of its attitude and treatment of people with psychiatric conditions.

The one thing that bugged me about my ex-friend Dora was the way she treated one female psychiatric patient - she "suggested" to this patient that one of her colleagues likes her, despite the fact the patient was suffering from delusions of love. That is no way to treat a psychiatric patient. It is the equivalent of introducing an infection to an AIDS patient. If Dora treated that patient like that, how was she going to treat me? To compound the situation, when I scolded her on the issue she had the look as to say, "Why are you scolding me? I did nothing wrong." She didn't feel any remorse or guilt and I don't think she would ever do so. At times I do get the feeling from friends, peers and doctors that they consider me crazy and don't believe or trust any word I say because I suffer from depression.

There is a group on Facebook called "Hong Kong is NOT a third world country". This maybe true in terms of infrastructure, economy and technology but in terms of knowlege and attitude towards minority groups such as homosexuals, dog owners, Filipinos and people with psychiatric conditions, it ranks at the bottom along with the rest of the crap such as Zimbabwe and pre-war Afghanistan.

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