Read This Book: An Unquiet Mind

11552857I love that more healthcare workers are talking about depression these days. It’s something I did not see while I was studying, and that meant that I felt very alone. You might even have seen (or participated in) #crazysocks4docs, which was meant to highlight the high rates of depression in the medical profession. (Some took exception to the term “crazy” – but I’m not going to discuss that right now.)

Anyway, more and more HCWs are doing their part to delegitimise stigma by sharing stories of their own depression. But some mental illnesses are still “off limits” – bipolar mood disorder and schizophrenia, for example; and it’s not hard to know why. For a doctor to get sad and burnt out? Most people can wrap their heads around that. But few are comfortable with the idea of an “unstable” doctor. Society hasn’t become comfortable talking about those disorders that may lead to losing touch with reality. Continue reading “Read This Book: An Unquiet Mind”

Dear Medical Student: Med School Is Not Worth Your Self-Harm


A while ago this secret appeared on PostSecret:

“Medical School made me self harm. It better be worth it.”

Continue reading “Dear Medical Student: Med School Is Not Worth Your Self-Harm”

Mental Health and HIV, ft. “My Life After Now”

Earlier this year I wrote that we needed more YA about teens with HIV. I didn’t know, at the time, that a 2013 YA existed on the very topic: My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi. I also didn’t know that not soon after I would be injured on duty, have to take prophylaxis, and months later have residual post-traumatic symptoms.

So recently I read My Life After Now as a sort of desensitisation exercise, to get back some of my empathy and also, honestly, because I was curious about how well Verdi would have accomplished writing about such a difficult scenario.

Let me tell you: I was pleasantly surprised! The writing was not necessarily my favourite – quite noticeably for a younger audience, obviously – and the setting was in the USA, which is quite different from my own. Nevertheless, I thought Verdi illustrated the ambivalence towards the virus by teenagers who have heard of it ad nauseum VERY well. Continue reading “Mental Health and HIV, ft. “My Life After Now””

Books as a Mirror for Attitudes toward Mental Health

For Mental Health Awareness Month I wanted to make a list of books about mental health. I was done with a rough draft when I realised I didn’t like it: I hadn’t read that many YA about mental health and some pretty voracious readers are sure to post some fantastic lists.

What I do want to talk about is how YA portrays mental health issues, even when it isn’t necessarily focused on mental health.

mental health books Continue reading “Books as a Mirror for Attitudes toward Mental Health”

Healthcare for LGBT Patients in South Africa

In our third year, a friend of mine had an upsetting first shift in Trauma Surgery: the first suturing she ever did was on a young woman who had just survived corrective rape. Rape is common in our country in general, and so is the “corrective” rape of gender non-conforming women.

A year later, we saw a transwoman being place in a single room, because the hospital had no policy for what to do with her. She did not want to be in a male ward, but strong leadership was lacking and so a patient with no infectious risk was placed in a single room. It did not sit well with us, but we were fourth years. We did not know what we could do.

Tonight I attended a fantastic talk by Dr Alexandra Muller from the University of Cape Town on providing healthcare for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender patients: why we should care and what we can do better.

health lgbt collage Continue reading “Healthcare for LGBT Patients in South Africa”

I said, eliminate the stigma..!

Studying for tests on Friday which will hopefully mean the end of Middle Clinical Rotations and herald the beginning of my Late Clinical Rotations, i.e. the final 17 months of medical school. One of the tests is psychiatry. 

I saw these two secrets on PostSecret that tugged at my heartstrings (metaphorically).

Continue reading “I said, eliminate the stigma..!”

Removing the Stigma from Mental Illness

It has been a long and difficult week in Psychiatry. This week, we’ve been exposed to a large mental hospital campus, where I found working with intellectually disabled children and therapy groups especially insightful – and emotionally taxing.

Here is a short TedTalk by one of the psychiatrists working there. It is pretty self-explanatory, but I love the way he is approaching stigma and the environment. A note on the norMAL/MALadjusted theme: “mal” is the Afrikaans word for “crazy” (and no, we don’t call people crazy anymore, but in this campaign it is an especially useful play on words).

Book Review: Whisper Not

Readers of this blog might remember that I went to my first ever book fair last year. My first purchase that day was a book called Whisper Not: 15 Africans speak out on life and love beyond HIV (Mpongo et al), which some of the authors graciously signed for me.

It took me a while to start on the reading, but when I did, I really had high hopes for this book, which is what makes the review so difficult. Continue reading “Book Review: Whisper Not”

World Leprosy Day

Stigma should not be seen as residing in an individual with a disease, but it resides in the society that has not found a way to be inclusive. We have a duty to diagnose and treat the stigma.

John Manton, The International Leprosy Association, 2007

Perhaps the first disease I knew of, thanks to my Illustrated Children’s Bible, was Leprosy. I was so afraid of losing my fingers and toes and being ostracized like the Lepers of Biblical times. I knew there was a cure though – knew this long before I learnt that TB medication was first used for leprosy.

Continue reading “World Leprosy Day”