Amar Singh’s search for a diagnosis in a fragmented healthcare system

Nearly a decade ago, Amar Singh was diagnosed with depression. As a young person, preoccupied with pursuing a degree in English Literature, Amar swept his diagnosis under the rug. It wasn’t until he began to experience the consequences of this neglect - dropping out of his program, mounting physical conditions, and traversing a fragmented web of care - that Amar was faced with confronting his diagnosis.

Amar’s search for a diagnosis began after his untreated depression took a toll on his physical health, prompting a tenured voyage throughout a fragmented web of care. A confluence of bizarre and debilitating symptoms led Amar through a series of specialists, from neurologists to cardiologists, without a confirmed diagnosis.

“I felt like I was being treated like a number, [so] I went through multiple doctors within a three year period,” Amar recounted.

In British Columbia, it is not uncommon for patients to pay upwards of $100 to transfer previous records to a new primary care provider; as a young person with the inability to afford these fees, Amar’s various care providers weren’t able to consider any previous medical history, including his depression diagnosis. It was like starting from scratch with each transfer he made.

“Even though it was my health, it never felt like it belonged to me. It felt like it belonged to the doctors.” Amar’s perspective reflects a common experience where empowered decision making is stymied by lack of access to personal health information.

Although Amar never received a diagnosis for his physical symptoms, with the aid of an empathetic primary care provider, he was able to establish a holistic approach to his health that worked for him. By recognizing the co-dependence of mental and physical health, and in turn circumventing challenges posed by the health system, Amar was able to take ownership of his health.

Recounting the earlier days of his diagnosis, ”I would intentionally keep myself busy so I didn’t have to think about things,” he reflects upon challenges that at times felt all-consuming. “Depression feels like a sense of worthlessness and emptiness,” he continues, with challenges exacerbated by social stigma surrounding mental health.

Today, Amar has negotiated a flexible work arrangement that allows him to both grow professionally and maintain his mental health. By acknowledging the physical, emotional, and spiritual, Amar has not only become an advocate for his own healthcare needs, but of the community more broadly.

With confidence in his ability to thrive, Amar feels he has a bigger role in challenging the harmful stigma surrounding mental health illnesses. “Whether your demons are depression, anxiety or what-have-you, it’s important to be able to create a safe space to have that conversation.” In spite of his former challenges affecting his mental and physical health, Amar hopes to offer this space for others to reflect and take space for their health, too.

This is part of Dot Health’s #HealthStories series, where we highlight individuals from across Canada and their experience with the healthcare system in Canada as a patient, caregiver, or advocate.

Dot Health is a Toronto-based digital health company that believes health information belongs in the hands of its owner: you. Through our web and mobile app, we empower Canadians to own and control their health data, from clinics, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies.

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