Case vignette

Collaborating with a parent navigating a mental health emergency.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Collaborating with a parent navigating a mental health emergency.

A mother brings her pre-teen son, Ray to the psychiatric emergency room after an attempted suicide.

Doctor

Ray's mother

…I need your help… I don’t know what to do anymore! He…he…took so many pills and I can’t tell you why. I’m in so much pain.

Doctor

It sounds like you and your son are suffering. I want to assure you that I’m here to help, not harm or make either of you feel worse. Is there anything I should know about your son that might not be represented in his medical chart?

Ray's mother

Ray’s always had a hard time at school, and he’d get into fights with classmates, arguments with teachers, or just disrupt class. Last year, they diagnosed Ray with ADHD and transferred him over to special ed classes where he says the work is too easy.

Doctor

And how did you feel about the change?

Ray's mother

…like my child was being singled out. This diagnosis only happened because we moved to a new neighborhood with a new school. Most of the teachers there are white and I feel like they targeted him as the “bad student” because he’s Black.

Doctor

Unfortunately, this is typical for Black boys to be disproportionately characterized as “aggressive” and punished in our school systems without being given the support they need.

Ray's mother

Exactly! Ray often comes home from home with tears in his eyes and locks himself in the room because of the isolation. Plus, he was recently suspended.

Doctor

Once we treat Ray with the appropriate care, I could write a letter to his school clarifying his diagnosis and treatment plan, while also recommending supportive therapeutic interventions.

Ray's mother

Doctor

Ray's mother

Doctor

Ray's mother

Things to consider.

01

Inclusive, trauma-informed intake practices may reduce the harm inflicted by racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance exhibited in health care, education, and society.

02

When conducting an trauma-informed, inclusive intake, make sure it feels safe, private, optional, and, if possible, anonymous for the patient.

Question to think about:

Would you feel comfortable asking about and acknowledging institutional trauma a patient has experienced?

Ask for pronouns
Ask how the patient is doing
Ask for consent before touching
All of the above