Right of mentally ill patients to privacy

  • Letters
  • Friday, 14 Feb 2020

LIFE is about expecting the unexpected. Change is constant and we usually adapt to it. But what if the effects of the change we undergo are so traumatic and devastating that it is difficult to move on?

Sometimes we act in disappointing and even unethical ways when we are under a lot of pressure. Would apologising for our misdeeds when we come back to our senses be enough?

What differentiates a patient with mental illness from the healthcare workers? Obviously, the former is not in a sane state of mind while the latter is fit to offer assistance. The odds are that most patients with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder would not be in a stable condition when they skip their medication for a long time without medical advice. Of course, they can be a nuisance and act inappropriately.

Having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar mood

disorder and schizoaffective disorder, I am aware that psychiatric patients receive excellent medical care in hospitals when admittance is necessary.

This happens especially when the family is unable to cope with the patient’s illness because he/she is not taking his/her medications.

Nevertheless, there are instances when patients are treated in an unforgivable manner, like not being given privacy to take a bath.

This happened to me one morning when I was washing my hair in the psychiatry ward. A nurse simply pushed open the door without any warning. I was shocked as I was completely naked, but all I could do was smile at her even though I felt completely helpless and embarrassed.

Her excuse for coming in without any warning was that I was taking too long, but I remember it was less than five minutes.

What right does the nurse have to violate my privacy? I felt that keeping quiet would only encourage this incident to happen to the vulnerable in similar circumstances, so I’m speaking up.

Would the nurse keep quiet if the incident happened to her sister, daughter or mother?

I cannot understand why a nurse who is supposed to be caring could do such a thing to anyone, let alone patients with mental illness.

Punishing patients when they misbehave is completely acceptable, and I would say necessary, to control the situation. But healthcare workers must act professionally.

I am not saying I am perfect as there are mistakes that I have done during my psychotic episodes. But whatever mistakes patients have done, please remember that they were not in good mental health at that point in time and treat them in a professional manner.



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