In January, the National Academy of Medicine is launching a new committee to address the high rates of depression and suicide among physicians and other health care workers in the United States.  They plan to bring together medical professionals, educators and hospital administrators, and I hope they will also bring to the table professionals who have experienced burnout, and who may have attempted suicide due to burnout.  I say this ...

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I listened to a Planet Money podcast recently titled, Burnout.  It dealt with the origin and characteristics of burnout, and I would highly recommend it. You’ve all heard the term and have a vague knowledge of what burnout is, I’m sure. You may have experienced it yourself. It affects call center employees (as in the podcast), all sorts of service workers, doctors and other health care providers and countless others. Looking back ...

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Someone presented me with the opportunity to write a section on psychiatry for medical students. This is wonderful (an opportunity to influence future physicians!) and terrible (GAAAAH there’s so much in psychiatry!). Between thinking about psychiatry at multiple levels at work and thinking about the foundations of psychiatry while writing the section, I’ve felt cognitively impaired when thinking about what I should write here. But the thinking never stops … and ...

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I will not argue that drugs are “bad” and holistic care is “good.” I have seen the way medications can transform a person’s life for the better, and I could never invalidate the experience of someone living with mental illness. But I will argue vehemently that holistic, preventive, and integrative health measures should come first, and medication should be used as a secondary option. The current structure of psychiatry -- ...

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I’m just coming out of two years of sleep deprivation. Due to some sleep apnea issues (hopefully finally resolved), my now two-year-old daughter slept like a newborn until this summer. Which means, like the mom of a newborn, I was up every three hours at night for the last two years. This has given me more experience in living with sleep deprivation than I ever wanted and plenty of time to think ...

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seanpetrosuicide-900x600 Cheryl lost her son Sean to suicide in medical school. Just a few months ago. Her only child. Cheryl didn’t know that medical students were at high risk of suicide -- until her son was dead. Nobody warned her. Rhonda lost her daughter Kaitlyn to suicide in medical school. Unable to recuperate from the pain of her daughter’s suicide, Rhonda died by suicide ...

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Psychosomatic. I learned not to use that word forty years ago, after I'd told a patient her malady might be psychosomatic in origin. She turned red, jumped up, and on her way out said, “I hope you fall into an open manhole and die!” Well, maybe I should've been more circumspect. I hadn't realized until then that people can understand “psychosomatic” in a different way than I do. I'd meant what ...

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She is tall, thin and wears torn jeans like a mannequin. A silky top flows around her, masking the thin torso, the exposed ribs. Her hair is long, fine and the ends are perfect. Her face is smooth, drawn, a bit careworn, but that is why she is here. She carries herself with an aristocratic bearing that is not learned but genetically endowed over generations. She is rich, entitled and ...

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I’m a psychiatrist. I’ve been practicing for 30 plus years. I’ve worked in inpatient and outpatient settings seeing the typical mix of general psychiatric patients.  About five years ago, I was asked to take the training for a buprenorphine license to serve as a backup for our addiction psychiatrist in her suboxone clinic.  I did the training, doubting that I would every really use it on a consistent basis. But ...

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I answer every phone call from every patient myself. I have no staff to respond to issues that come up during the day. There are no colleagues that take my calls after hours. This was my choice in response to what everyone knows: Health care is broken.  I needed a radical change from the bureaucratic system that I experienced daily as a physician however I had no idea how to ...

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