Yesterday a classmate asked me if I knew of any good therapists, and I asked her why. She said, very slowly, “Well, because I’m not depressed or anything, but lately I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to not be alive anymore.”
When I mentioned the mental health clinic we have at this school (totally confidential, none of the psychiatrists have any other affiliation with the school, and your records are kept at a different place than the rest of the med school’s student health records – pretty awesome and thoughtful), she was like, “Oh, that sounds serious! I don’t need serious help. I don’t like, have a problem.”
After a pause, I asked her what she would recommend if I told her that I had a friend who thought it would feel better to be dead. She said, “Well, I guess they should probably see somebody official. But I’m not sure I need to. I just need to try harder.”*
I have another friend who doesn’t really believe in psychiatric disorders. She’s pretty open about the fact that whenever any of her friends have been depressed, she’s been positive that they could “snap out of it” if they just tried. I don’t know if our psychiatry class will ever get through to her – they did throw a bunch of neurotransmitter stuff at us last week, so I was kind of hoping that would make her realize depressed people aren’t just lazy.
You’d think somebody who can memorize the pathogenesis of hundreds of diseases would understand that sometimes, instead of having a ‘diabetes of the pancreas’ you might have something more like a ‘diabetes of the mind’ – sometimes things go wrong, and you need to fix or manage them as best as you can, even if you don’t totally understand why it went wrong.
Medical students and psychiatric issues. Man. I definitely can’t claim to be above the “I’m different! I just need to try harder!” mantra of denial (It’s totally normal to get so stressed out you can’t move your neck, right? Totally not indicative of an underlying problem?), but for what it’s worth, I did eventually decide to see somebody about that stress issue.
The corollary to “Doctor, heal thyself”: Med student, see a damned doctor.