A little while ago, I dropped in at one of the many libraries in the area that sell books and ephemera. A nondescript thin unmarked cover demanded closer inspection. In muted gold script, the title emerged, Letters to Children by Beatrix Potter, Harvard University Press.
Inside were several otherwise unpublished tales embedded in very kind and respectful letters to children that Potter had written. Like another favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle, she was careful to get out of her own way and write of salience and thought-provoking ethics which all ages could enjoy and take away the gifts of essence.
It occurred to me that the ever louder and defensive whining tales of woe coming from self-proclaimed “good” psychiatrists might benefit from a session or two with Potter’s and L’Engle’s stories.
Here are some of the take aways for them:
1. Who is the subject of the tale? Patients (others) or self (psychiatry and psychiatrists)
2. Who is the hero? See #1
3. Who and what constitutes the villain? Patients, insurers, third party reimbursers, employers (hospitals, institutions, jails, prisons, lawyers, universities, patients), laws, regulations, society, colleagues, non-psychiatrists health professionals
4. What needs to happen for the hero to triumph? Patient compliance, better financial renumeration, more professional power, greater professional autonomy, more prestige (all this assumes psychiatry is the hero)? Or in the case of patient as hero, recovery, respect, successful societal integration, independence, personal autonomy, belonging, self-efficacy, prestige, greater financial renumeration?
5. What are the dangers interfering with hero triumph? What are the resources the hero brings to bear on the dangers?
OK, so with that in mind, have fun re-reading your childhood favorites. And take a gander at two recent posts penned by psychiatrists who define themselves as “good guys”, but do not specify exactly what that means for readers. The Steve twins – Drs. Moffic and Balt, have a go and try to engage with commenters who self identify primarily as people who had experiences as psychiatric patients and family of psychiatric patients. Refer to the list above and see if you can’t help them out in their obvious confusion and self-contradictions.
Hint: psychiatry’s subject is supposed to be patient well-being and health derived from a respectful and trust-based relationship with patients