Friday, October 11, 2013

Psychiatrist-Patient Relationship Becomes More Meaningful When Mental Illness Persists, Author Says

For patients with severe and mental illness that has persisted over many years, a psychiatrist may be the patient’s only stable and lasting relationship as friends and family drop away. 

That’s what author Jay Neugeboren told psychiatrists today at APA's 65th Institute on Psychiatric Services in Philadelphia at the session on “What Families Need from Psychiatrists.”

Neugeboren is the author of Imagining Robert, which describes his relationship with his brother Robert, who has been in and out of psychiatric treatment facilities and institutions for decades. In another of his books, Transforming Madness, he recounted interviewing men and women who had once been institutionalized but had gone on to lead productive lives. While many factors may have contributed to recovery, what he said was common to all stories of recovery was a lasting and important relationship.

But Neugeborn said that for some patients who have had severe mental illness for years and years, resulting in multiple hospitalizations, family and friends sometimes drop away. He described his many visits to his brother at treatment facilities, including a residential treatment facility when Robert was living with other people with mental illness, and said that he was often the only family member visiting.

“When the condition goes on and on, family and friends drop away,” he said. “That means the responsibility of the psychiatrist is greater—but you should see it as an opportunity. Generally, people with very severe mental illness that has lasted for years don’t have people to rely on. You as the psychiatrist become the constant when family members drop away.” 

For more information, see "Personal Accounts: Mental Disorders: Pathways to Hope . . . ?" by Neugeboren in Psychiatric Services.

(Image: Mark Moran)


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