A guest blog post by 2nd Year PA Student, Tunde Oshikoya:

There was one moment in particular that I will never forget where I immediately felt connected to the patients. At our facility we hold daily individual, group and milieu therapy sessions with every patient to aid in his or her recovery. The group therapy session is composed of drawing random questions out of a bowl while sharing your answer with everyone in the room in an effort to illustrate possible commonalities and heal through bonding. As I am listening to these patients respond to the questions, I noticed that their answers were unlike what I expected to hear from individuals suffering from a mental illness. In fact, their answers were truly thought provoking and engaging.
As I grew more comfortable in the therapy session, I decided to participate. I slid my hand in the bowl, grabbed a question and read it aloud: “Name someone you admire and share why”.
After a few moments of introspection, my response suddenly hit me and I decided to speak from my heart while sharing my truth with anyone who was willing to listen. “I entered the medical profession to help people” I shared with the room.
“I have always wanted a role in the reason someone continued to live instead of die. It is for this reason that I admire everyone, including those who are in this room. I admire those who may feel forgotten about or outcasted simply because they appear to be different. I admire those who choose to persevere in the face of adversity. I admire those who are labeled insignificant yet continue onward with a smile and open heart. Specifically, I admire the strength and resolve of everyone in this room because while most would give up in your situation, you all are actively seeking help.”
A feeling of understanding took over the room and for a brief moment, everyone was lucid. The phases of mania, psychosis and depression that once filled the environment were suddenly replaced with a moment of remission. Everyone appeared to remember who they were and where they were.
This moment was the defining moment that my perspective surrounding mental health grew. I could have easily told them that I admire my parents or medical professors but there is something that is more important than any of that; Acknowledgment.

No matter how small or seemingly unimportant, every individual on this earth has something to contribute and is thus, deserving of acknowledgment and admiration.

So with that being said:

Be open and sensitive to the experiences of others. Life is simply a series of experiences that define who we are today. While our experiences may vary from person to person, it does not make yours or mine any less valid. People suffer from mental illness because of their experiences but we are all one life event or life choice away from following the same path.

About the author: My name is Tunde Oshikoya, 2nd year PA student at the University of Florida. My interests include fitness, fine arts and medicine. Upon graduation in 2018, I intend to work as a PA in the emergency medicine setting, open a private practice with 2 of my brothers who are MDs and eventually work in the NFL as a PA in orthopedic surgery.

Q: Can you elaborate on what your experience has been like witnessing the stigma in mental health illnesses in your rotation so far?

A: The opportunity to treat this patient population for the entire month of July has been an immense honor. Studying and reading about mental illnesses in the didactic year and actually witnessing them in the clinical year are 2 vastly different experiences. As you slowly immerse yourself in the practitioner-patient relationship, you begin to understand that these individuals are no different from you or I. I have held conversations with patients about climate change, sports, and society just like I would with any other colleague or friend of mine. I have slowly begun to unravel the stigma surrounding mental illness and have concluded that society simply fears what is different or esoteric. It is easier to label and disregard a group than it is to engage in dialogue with them and see what they are about.

Q: What type of facility have you been rotating in and how do you think this experience has further molded your outlook?

A: I am currently rotating in an inpatient behavioral health facility where patients are typically hospitalized anywhere from 3-5 days. Factors such as the severity of the patient’s chief complaint or the status of their discharge location may lengthen or shorten their stay. While my outlook on mental health was fairly open at the start of the rotation, this experience has exposed me to an often marginalized and underrepresented patient population in those suffering from mental illnesses. Having had this unique opportunity to treat patients and learn from them in this setting, I can now apply the knowledge I have gained to all areas of medicine. Mental illness can be seen in every specialty and sub-specialty across the board. My preceptor once shared with me that 1 in 5 people suffer or will suffer from depression in their lifetime. If you apply that statistic to any area of medicine, it means on an average day you are bound to treat someone who may be suffering from depression (or any other mental illness).

It is imperative that healthcare providers have an understanding of behavioral health for this reason because early identification can lead to better patient outcomes. The mental health of an individual has a direct impact on their physical health and recovery.

Contact Tunde at: 
Instagram & Twitter: @GatorPA_
Email: Tundeo@ufl.edu