I still feel a little anxiety whenever I ask someone about suicide. I have no fear when asking The Question -- “Have you been thinking about killing yourself?” -- but sometimes I find that I’m not breathing while I await the answer. What if this person says “yes”? This anxiety persists even though it’s literally part of my job to ask this question. Despite having asked this question thousands of times, I still ...

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There were about nine of us waiting to cross the street. Several were Asian; there were also a few black and brown men. A van approached the curb to turn. It was one of those vans with a back door that slides along a track. That back door was wide open, even though the van was in motion. As it pulled closer, we saw that there were three young white men ...

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To the intern on the trauma surgery service when I was a medical student: Thanks for occasionally wearing leather pants to work. Thanks for smiling and having a sense of humor despite having to round on thirty patients. Thanks for teaching us medical students while running a significant sleep deficit. To the internal medicine resident who wanted to become a cardiologist: Thank you for indulging me and telling me how you ...

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I don’t remember her name, but I do remember her light brown hair, the simple nose ring that looped out of her left nostril, and the calm and centered presence she had with patients. She came across as unassuming, professional, and caring. We were both in medical school, though she was two years behind me. I admired how she treated people. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember that ...

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You don’t have to like everyone under your care. And you probably won’t, which is OK. Own how you feel. If you insist on telling yourself that you should like someone when, in fact, you don’t, it will come out in other ways: The tone of your voice, the expressions on your face, the way you position your body. There might completely understandable reasons why you don’t like the person under your ...

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Some of the people under my care in the jail right now are quite ill. (This statement is always true, but it seems that the intensity of illness is greater now than usual.) As a result, the perennial question seems more urgent now: Is there any way to prevent All of This? For some of them, it seems that the answer is No. Some of them sought out psychiatric services, attended ...

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From the notes I read, it seems that other medical specialties limit “social history” to whether or not someone uses tobacco, drinks alcohol, or uses drugs. “Social history” is meant to get a sense of the context in which people live. Where do they live? Who do they live with? How did they come to live there? Where did they grow up? What sort of work do they do? How much ...

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The senior psychiatry resident at the University of Washington School of Medicine warned me ahead of time. She laughed as she said, “He’s weird. You’ll get used to him.” When I first met with him, the psychiatrist lazily spun in his chair, his left hand tucked into his pants, his thumb hanging out. After he told me his expectations as my supervisor, he patted my right thigh as he ended the ...

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One of my readers, Natalie, wondered about my thoughts about the digital pill. My initial reactions were similar to several of those who were interviewed for the article. The digital pill, which provides electronic information to confirm whether someone has ingested the medication, has great potential to become a tool of coercion. Aripiprazole (Abilify) is classified as an antipsychotic medication, which is often prescribed to people who have beliefs that machines ...

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My first memory of encountering a person who appeared to have no place to live was during my first year of college at UCLA. A man was sitting outside a mini-mart, his legs crossed and his hair long. He looked tired, and his clothes had stains on them. Feeling pity for him, I went into the mini-mart and purchased a turkey sandwich on wheat. “Here,” I said as I handed him ...

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