A Creative Idea for Helping Patients Deal with the Possible Stigmatization of Taking a Medication at Work

Mar 06, 2017

“There are three kinds of reader: a first who enjoys without judging, a third who judges without enjoyment, and one in between, who judges with enjoyment and enjoys with judgment; it is this reader who actually produces the work of art anew.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A Creative Idea for Helping Patients Deal with the Possible Stigmatization of Taking a Medication at Work

TISA Description of the Problem: A frequent aspect of clinical interviewing is providing patients with psychoeducation and practical suggestions on how to deal with potentially awkward social consequences of their therapy. One such common inquiry by patients deals with their concerns with stigmatization related to having a mental illness. Often this concern is at its peak in the patient’s workplace, where stigmatization can even lead to problems with job retention. Samir Tuma, M.D. provides a very clever idea, that I had never thought of, that can help in this tricky situation. See what you think.

Tip: Patients sometimes ask me how they should handle the possibly embarrassing situation of having to take psychotropic medications while they are at work. They are concerned that colleagues or supervisors may raise questions about what the medications are or why are they being taken. I find that the following advice is often greatly appreciated:

“I have found that there is a very simple way to deal with this problem. At home keep your medication in its standard bottle. But bring a couple of your pills to work in a tiny, but well-labeled empty “vitamin bottle”. Then you can pull the bottle out anytime at lunch or where most appropriate, and if anybody asks, just rave about how much benefit you’ve been getting from Vitamin C or whatever Vitamin you choose to rave about. No one will give it a second thought.”

TISA Follow-up: I don’t have much to add to this very creative solution to a sometimes vexing problem. My only comment is that it reminds me that I probably don’t often ask frequently enough another important question, “Are you having any problems with the fact that you have to take your medication at work?”

Tip provided by:

Samir Tuma, M.D.
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine
University of Texas Medical School
Houston, Texas

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