On an information website for medical doctors, I came across a survey on doctors’ awareness of discrimination and prejudice against diseases as well as against their specialties. Among the various interesting findings, my attention was drawn to the opinion of a urologist who said they got laughed at, with people assuming that they only handled sexually transmitted diseases. Doctors in some other specialties echoed that they were “misunderstood” or “teased.”
Come to think about it, I was often teased by classmates in elementary school about my late father, who was an obstetrician-gynecologist. They would say, “Your dad just looks at naked women.” As an energetic child, I would shout back at them, “That’s because it’s necessary for his job!” But sometimes I would think to myself, “I wish he were in internal medicine or pediatrics.”
I later became a psychiatrist, and harsher prejudice awaited me. About 30 years ago, when I took this job, most people thought, “I’ll never have anything to do with psychiatry in my life.” Someone once asked me in our first meeting what my occupation was, and when I replied, “I’m a psychiatrist,” they looked frightened. Another person once put me in a dismal state of mind by laughing out loud — maybe they meant it as a joke — saying, “I may have need for your care someday, hahaha.”
Now, the situation has changed remarkably. There have been increasing numbers of young women who visit gynecologists for checkups and employees who come to mental clinics at an early stage when they think they might have mild depression. I feel that prejudice against certain medical specialties and diseases treated at such places has been fading. However, as the aforementioned survey indicates, there still seems to be atmosphere in which some people laugh at specific fields and diseases.
There is no disease in the world that a patient should be ashamed of. Any illness is painful for a patient, and specialized medical workers are trying hard to cure it. And every patient hopes to be able to go about their daily life at home and school, workplace or elsewhere after recovery or while keeping the ailment under control. Except for those with infectious diseases who need to be quarantined, no one should be told anything like, “Those who have this illness, please don’t come here.”
Laughter and humor are very important in our daily lives. But laughter and teasing directed at diseases and the medical fields that treat them are unneeded. If one gets sick, they should go to the hospital with their head held high, and work with doctors and nurses in earnest to cure the disease. There will be no problem with that. When I am asked what my specialty is, I would like to clearly answer, “Psychiatry!”
(Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)