Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Are Psychiatrists Evil?


I want to point you to a psychiatry blog I happened upon not long ago, In White Ink, written by psychiatrist Dr. Maria Yang.  There was a post that moved me, and I went to comment, but there was no place to do so. 

Now, Dr. Yang is in the process of moving her blog and she's put up a post about My Brief History on the Internet.  My favorite part of the post is where she marries one of her blog readers!

Dr. Yang writes:

I started meet­ing peo­ple who read my writ­ing online. The inter­net was a dynamic and excit­ing place.
I started feel­ing ambiva­lent about writ­ing online. I closed down com­ments because anony­mous peo­ple left state­ments like, “ALL PSYCHIATRISTS SHOULD DIE” and “YOURE A PSYCHIATRIST, YOU KILL CHILDREN”. A physi­cian who wrote a blog under a pseu­do­nym was revealed in court. I wor­ried that my writ­ing wasn’t fic­ti­tious enough, that maybe my sto­ries weren’t purely coin­ci­den­tal. My mind gen­er­ated cat­a­stro­phes: Some­one might read a story and think I was talk­ing about them! They would sue me and I would lose my license! Other doc­tors would judge me! I would never recover! Even if I did, one of those com­menters who hate psy­chi­a­trists would then kill me!
So I shut down that blog. The inter­net was a scary and dan­ger­ous place.

At Shrink Rap, we've been to all those places, since we started blogging in Spring of 2006.  We do have the best of readers, who are bright, articulate, and thoughtful, and we don't get death threats or personal accusations, but part of this post resonated for me.

What we do see a lot of in our comment section are stories about people who are, from their point of view only (the psychiatrist's side is never solicited) who have been mistreated by the mental health system.  I like getting the links, because I do like to know that these issues are out there.  What I don't like, is the insistence that the patient is always the victim of the evil psychiatrist, that they played no role and if they behaved in an aggressive way that provoked unwarranted treatment, then it's obviously because the evil psychiatrist was not listening to their concerns and any reasonable, mentally well, human being would respond in such a fashion.  

If that's not enough, then commenters go on to talk about how psychiatrists are all about "power trips." Trust me on this, any day a psychiatrist calls the police for an out-of-control patient, it's BAD day.  There's no, "Honey, what a great day, I got to call the cops and commit someone." It's traumatic, upsetting, and draining for the psychiatrist.  And, I'm well aware that it's traumatic, upsetting, and draining for the patient, and no doctor likes to upset their patients.  It's a much better day when things are congenial and patients like the ways we have of helping them.

Personally, the psychiatrists I know -- who are all just people with the same types of flaws and imperfections that all people have -- really care about their patients, respect them as human beings, and are interested in working with them collaboratively.  I get insulted when readers insist my career is about power trips and that I'm wrong to say we shouldn't revel in the stories of patient victimization without knowing the full story.   I'm not saying that psychiatrists don't make mistakes, or that their aren't bad psychiatrists, and I'm certainly not saying that there are not bad laws out there, but I am saying that our field is not about evil people (they are the exception, not the rule), and power trips. One should reserve judgement when all sides can't weigh in.  A psychiatrist simply can't tell his side of the story to the media.  "I was hospitalized unjustly!"  can't be countered in the media by a psychiatrist saying, "He insisted he was going to kill his family."   

What I'm lost for is why the "Psychiatrists are Evil" crowd congregate here at Shrink Rap.  Do they think that the incessant drumbeat of "psychiatry is evil" in the comment section of a blog changes the world?  It doesn't, it just annoys the bloggers and adds to this odd notion that a therapeutic relationship with one's doctor is adversarial, when we see it as being collaborative.  It's exhausting and eroding.  I believe that if the commenters want to change the world, they should start their own blogs for like-minded readers, and when they believe someone has been victimized by bad laws, they should write the newspapers and legislators in those states and protest the bad laws.  The comment section of Shrink Rap does nothing, nada, zilch.