Mental illness can be a difficult but critical topic that is as much about taking care of ourselves as it is taking care of our patients. This powerful On Being a Doctor essay compels each of us to look inside ourselves and ask if our actions have contributed to the suffering of our patients and colleagues struggling with mental illness. An anonymous fourth-year medical student discusses the struggles that health care professionals with mental illness face.
Use this essay to:
- Listen to an audio recording of the On Being a Doctor essay read by the author of the editorial Dr. Michael LaCombe.
- Have you ever heard fellow physicians make disparaging remarks about patients with mental illness. Think about whether you have ever made such remarks yourself. Why does it matter if we're just “joking” or “blowing off steam”?
- In what ways do we “label” patients who have mental illness? How do these labels affect the care of patients?
- Is our profession prejudiced against patients with mental illness? Do you think patients pick up on our prejudices?
- The author of the essay and comments that a professional culture that labels mental illness as a weakness, and even “dirty,” impedes us from seeking support when we need it for ourselves. How?
- Do you know where to turn for help if you need it yourself?
- Ask patients on rounds about their depression or other mental illnesses. Consider carefully how you will do so. How will your questions, responses, and manner be viewed by your learners?
Annals of Internal Medicine is the premier internal medicine academic journal published by the American College of Physicians (ACP). It is one of the most widely cited and influential specialty medical journals in the world.
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