The intention of this post is to provide an opportunity for professionals to reflect on how the collective values of an organisation can be upheld in the era of social media. The Core Values for Psychiatrists as set out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists are: Communication, Dignity, Empathy, Fairness, Honesty, Humility, Respect and Trust.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has always been determined to ‘combat’ stigma. Although there is no generally accepted specific theory of stigma, it can be defined as ‘an attribute that is deeply discrediting and that reduces the bearer from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one’ (Goffman, 1963). One of the initiatives set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists to address stigma is this educational module. The module, in its introduction, states: “Attitudes held by health professionals, including those who work in and outside of mental health, can have positive and negative impacts upon patient quality of care.” A whole section of this module explores this question: What can people including psychiatrists do to reduce stigma?
The advent of social media has created a new environment where health professionals are at risk of increasing rather than reducing stigma. The balance of power between psychiatrists and patients [members of the public] has always been unequal because of the legal authority to detain. This imbalance also includes the application of diagnostic categories to others. It is disappointing to see any misuse of this power, for this will only perpetuate stigma. It is a real challenge for the Royal College of Psychiatrists to ensure that the values that the organisation has set out are followed by its members in all settings, including social media.