- Can I tell you a little bit about my myself? It might be helpful for you to have some context.
- You should know this about me…
- One thing I would really like to discuss with you is my mental and sexual health.
- I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t forget anything, so I wrote a few things down.
- My sexual/mental health is important to me. I wanted to talk you about…
- Something has been on my mind lately and I wanted to talk to you about it today.
Questions for clarification
- I didn’t understand that. Would you explain that to me?
- Could you tell me why you are you asking me that question?
- Could you tell me what you are doing?
- Could you tell me why you have to do that procedure/test?
- Would you mind telling me about how the exam will happen? What to expect during the appointment?
Things to remember
- You are the expert on you own body, mind and experiences.
- Keep the conversation open. If you are seeing the same health care provider more than once, it can be helpful to discuss sexual and mental health during each visit so they can have a sense of the larger context when you bring up concerns or wish to discuss specific health issues.
- Never be afraid to ask your health care provider for a specific referral. Every health care provider has limits to what they know and what they can do as part of their job; providing referrals is an everyday part of their job.
- Use your own words. Don’t be afraid of not using the right “medical” terms. People have many ways of describing their bodies, minds and health, a good health care provider should meet you where you are at with terminology and knowledge.
What can you do when your health care provider doesn’t believe you?
It might happen that you feel there is a disconnect between the concerns you are bringing to your health care provider and how you are being received. This is a real thing that happens and so, it is important to feel informed and prepared about the possibility. Gender stereotypes (e.g., the misconception that women are melodramatic, exaggerate, seek attention, etc.) often result in women and feminine presenting people experiencing degrees of disbelief when they access health care.
Did you know? In the study The Girl Who Cried Pain, the author identifies ways gender bias tends to play out in clinical pain management. Women are “more likely to be treated less aggressively in their initial encounters with the health-care system until they ‘prove that they are as sick as male patients,’” a phenomenon referred to as “Yentl Syndrome” in the medical community.
While most people may physically recover from instances where they were dismissed or brushed off, it can delay care, it can impact diagnoses and treatment plans, it fuels mistrust and, for many, it might mean dealing with the trauma of “not being seen.”
This vulnerability can be compounded by a person’s race, disability, drug use, etc. When we talk of racial disparity in health, one important factor is the racial empathy gap. A recent study shows that people (including medical personnel) assume Black people feel less pain than white people. For people who use drugs, who use opioids for chronic pain and/or “look the part” of what a drug user could look like, this can mean being labeled a “drug seeker” and not being believed and/or treated for pain. In the cases of Indigenous people, a study from St. Michael’s Hospital shows the impact of differential decision making and how it comes from “unintentional racism” by well-meaning care practitioners.
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