I almost became a psychiatrist… but I didn’t. I liked the lifestyle, I found the pharmacology interesting, and I loved the outsider patient population. Most of all, I wanted to take up the fight and dedicate my career towards a modern day plague.
I couldn’t commit to psychiatry, largely because I felt that I would lose the fight. The drugs have devastating side effects and low success rates. Relapses are common. Patients are hard to reach. Heck, after 4 years of medical school, I don’t even know what mental health is. What I do know is that our current system is lacking.
I hear a lot along the lines of “we need more mental health resources” or “our government/schools/hospitals/etc need to do more for the mentally ill” or even “we need good mental health workers.” Sounding off reinforces the status quo. I would prefer to start over in attempts thinking outside the box. I don’t have answers, but sometimes questions are a good place to start.
- Why haven’t we found effective strategies to assuage mental illness?
- What is the line between emotion and illness; sadness and depression?
- Why do proven therapies still carry a stigma?
- Is the violence epidemic in the USA also related to the mental health problem? What about homelessness? Joblessness?
As for me and my career, I stayed true to my adrenaline-seeking, problem-solving, grunge-gravitating personality and chose emergency medicine. My residency is 3 years. I will surely see a lot of mental illness in the emergency department and that is, in fact, why I chose emergency medicine. I want to see and do all that I can for those with no other place to go, especially the mentally ill. By the end of my 3 years, I doubt I will have any more answers than I do now, but I hope to ask more questions and push to change the paradigm surrounding mental illness.