I’ve been invited to speak to a group of attorneys who work at the interface of psychiatry and the law. The topic of my talk? “Psychiatry 101.” A psychiatrist who gave this talk to a similar group a few years ago advised me: “You should assume that lawyers are laymen. It’s surprising how little they know, given the work that they do.” This teaching opportunity to teach has given me pause: What is mental ...

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Dead-Doctor-640x400 An investigation is underway after a Chicago-area doctor is found dead -- a suicide according to the medical examiner. What demands investigation is the callousness with which the this doctor’s death was reported by the media -- and received by neighbors, many health care professionals themselves. I’m alerted to the death initially by a Facebook friend: “Pamela, check this out!” Headline:
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As someone involved in both the medical and acting world, I was tremendously saddened to read about Dr. Fredric Brandt’s recent suicide, which is presumed to be in response to an impersonation of him on the Netflix’s series, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Project Casting, a website offering free casting calls and auditions, posted a link on their website asking, “Did Netflix go too far” and I was shocked by people’s ...

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A pilot deliberately flying a plane full of passengers into a mountain is horrific, unbelievably sad, and, thankfully, very rare. But suicide is far from rare. Tragically, those usually lonely acts of despair are rising.    But can they be prevented? Someone in this country dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes. The national suicide rate has increased to 12.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 and for ages 18 to 35 -- the prime of one’s life ...

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Many people know what it feels like to be depressed. It’s hard to go through life without at some point experiencing that helpless/hopeless feeling. Some people, however, stay stuck in this painful state. In my family therapy practice, I frequently get calls from people seeking help for depression. Sometimes their depression is self-diagnosed, reflecting their experience of ongoing distress.  Other times they’ve been referred by their family doctor.  It’s common ...

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I often get referrals from the town's free clinic.  As you would imagine, the patients often have a unique set of problems, coming as they do from the underserved segment of society. One such patient, Julia, was a fiftyish-year-old woman who had recently moved to town from California. She went to the free clinic (not really sure what the original complaint was) and ended up getting a physical exam that revealed ...

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The recent Germanwings tragedy has called commercial aviation's concept of fitness for flight into question.  Although the official mishap investigation has not yet concluded, available information at the time of this writing points to an intentional crashing of the plane by the 27-year-old co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz. Reports from the co-pilot’s medical records allege he had previously experienced episodes of depression and carried diagnoses for other psychosomatic disorders.  Antidepressants and torn medical memorandums stating that ...

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My husband was in the aisle seat, I was in the middle seat, and The Man was in the window seat. The Man had one white earbud in his ear; the other one was dangling in his lap. His right thumb swiped through several screens of his smartphone in less than a second. He heaved a sigh. “This is f*cking lame,” he muttered. The plane was supposed to take off 15 minutes ago. ...

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A drug company recently received FDA approval to peddle its speed-like pill for "binge eating disorder" (the very same pill that is already widely overused for ADHD). And it is sparing no expense pushing the drug -- a former world tennis champ is the shill and commercials are everywhere. Five years ago, I predicted binge eating disorder (BED) would become a new fad diagnosis and a wonderful target for pharma disease ...

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Alarming headlines, based on a recent study, declare that diagnosis with ADHD doubles the risk of early death. Psychiatrist Stephen Faraone, commenting on the original study published in the Lancet, concludes that: “for clinicians early diagnosis and treatment should become the rule rather than the exception.” This conclusion represents a false assumption that the deaths occurred in cases that were not treated. The large cohort study in Denmark, that looked at records of ...

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