In the room, and using your voice

A letter from our August edition.

Working in an adult mental health service I often think ‘What the hell am I doing here?’. It seems like ‘personality disorder’ is the in-vogue diagnostic label of the moment, and frighteningly powerful medicines are prescribed faster than I can decide what to order from the local takeaway on a Saturday night (even though I always order the same thing!). So given that I struggle to agree with or understand the system I work in, one might question why I chose to work in this area to begin with?

Then I have those moments that remind me exactly why I’m here. Such as the recent time I sat in the community mental health team meeting and a referral requesting a psychiatric assessment for (and I quote) ‘transgender disorder’ was read aloud. My stomach instantly flipped! Thoughts about the derogatory language used in that one small sentence and the impact system processes could have on the individual being referred flooded my mind. I looked around the room to see if my gut reaction had been mirrored by other members of the team and to my relief noticed some discomfort. So I did the thing I was there to do as the psychologist in the team, I acknowledged that discomfort and talked about the elephant in the room.

It’s at times like that I think ‘This is exactly where I need to be’, offering up psychological ways of thinking and challenging the dominant discourse so often flippantly used in adult mental health settings. So although I might only be a small voice in a loud room, I’m in that room and I have a voice!

Dr Nicola Edwards
Clinical psychologist
Chester

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