In today’s The Age newspaper was an article about the medical profession and the “alarming number of medicos (who) suffer from mental illness” and the associated stigma about their condition. The article featured a 29-year-old woman who was working as a psychiatric registrar and an anaesthetist battling depression for more than 30 years. Wow, do I ever feel vindicated; not that I need to especially, just overjoyed that some reality about doctors has made it into the mainstream media in Melbourne. However, what was not even raised was the background as to why these two medicos experienced mental illness; only that they hid their illness in secrecy and shame. Moreover, as I’ve written about so much, the anaesthetist ends the article by saying” Once you get a label, you forfeit the right to be human”. It’s indeed chilling reading for the thousands who do experience mental ill-health; not even considered human as I’ve tragically experienced, too. The female psych registrar, no longer working in the psych industry, is however, working as a counsellor but she did acknowledge that doctors are “God-like” and that she chose the profession of psychiatry to try and help those in a (supposedly -my word) worse situation than her own. The article added that they do this indeed to try and heal their own wounds.
This reading is not new to me; I had read even as a teenager in the 60s about psychiatrists often choosing their profession to alleviate their own problems, albeit unconsciously. I have always enjoyed talking to people and once considered doing psychiatry because it seemed to offer an opportunity to spend my working life talking to people. I did some brief research on the subject where I found a report or article or book (I can’t remember exactly) about what I’ve just written and realised that I didn’t want to spend my day talking about sad issues and people’s problems. It didn’t seem a fun or enjoyable way of earning money. So I chose journalism instead and abandoned any idea of becoming a shrink. Later, when I was just 20, my cousin was diagnosed as manic-depressive and she came to talk to me because she couldn’t talk to the shrink her mother had organised for her. I’ve been through my own experience too and it’s been even more horrifying than today’s article in the newspaper revealed. It is however, a start. But the reality is that these shrinks then can and do project their unconscious block-out of their problems onto their patients; and if you are at all vulnerable, confused and unsure about what happened, you can too easily believe their diagnosis. This wasn’t mentioned of course in the article; moreover, my sister, as I’ve written previously, was just a GP but often took valium when her husband businessman was absent from home at night travelling on business. My sister’s daughter, also a doctor, was on anti-depressants (not sure for how long however) when her then boyfriend dumped her and her son had something of a breakdown while he was travelling overseas. Of course, this was hushed up in her family. I was told by the son’s wife that indeed he was “moody” and have oft wondered whether he is on anti-depressants, but I don’t see them and don’t care. Moreover, I grew up with girl friends whose fathers were doctors and the litany of mental ill-health from these young women is indeed just as disturbing.
My research on a female violent woman in the U.K. in the 1970s also uncovered some very alarming suicide figures for shrinks, and in today’s article it reports that suicide rates for physicians are estimated to be six times higher than in the general population. But still, doctors are regarded unrealistically as high status prestige people; earning a lot of money as specialists. I’ve previously documented how my sister used her “profession” as a doctor and her daughters to supposedly recognise I am sick. It is frightening that no one knows her own problems as she projects them onto me and no one has questioned the truth or validity of her supposed knowledgeable diagnosis. Or any of the shrinks that I later went to see in good faith believing I would receive some interest in my reality and my truth.
I am at least pleased that the article was published, but it is only the tip of the iceberg in the truly tragic reality of mental illness in our society. The really important issue for me is WHY mental illness is affecting so many millions of people around the world (depression now affects 1 in 5 people according to the World Health Organisation) – for me, it was always about unemployment and bankruptcy as I’ve written albeit totally misdiagnosed, but it is now so pervasive for people with supposedly prestigious, high status jobs in all walks of life across the socio-economic spectrum. Who can you really trust to see a person for who they really are when the very practitioners you are forced to turn to have so many of their own mental health problems? It’s indeed a disturbing picture of our world.