Well done to the two of you that noticed. There hasn't been an instalment of 'Baby Dr' for a while. That's because I've been on holiday, to France. Despite my parents prediction I met someone off the internet and returned with an intact jugular vein, 1. I've also moved into a new flat and spent two weeks trying to get a washing machine that cleans clothes and doesn't flood the shop downstairs. I also had the honour of meeting my two readers of this colum; Hello Genie and Napnod, It was lovely to meet you.
Despite my predictions I passed my exams, which means I'm now in the rather intimidating situation of being a fourth year medical student. This rather surprised me as I always thought that the fourth year medical students were grown up, and I don't seem to be any closer to adulthood.
My first placement was Psychiatry. This gave me the chance to see whether several myths about psychiatry were in fact true.
That Detaining People Against Their Will is Very Bad
Of course my liberal parents had informed me that people in psychiatric hospitals were there because they had accidentally offended psychiatrists - what they really needed was counselling, not drugs. Well that's what I thought, until I met some psychiatric patients. Yes the really were, erm, to use the politically correct phrase, 'Acutely mentally ill'. Many people worry that people are detained, against their will, when there isn't really much wrong with them. Well to do that you'd need something; beds. I know the fact that, most of the time, there aren't any empty psychiatric beds in Birmingham is a terrible thing. Somehow I do find it faintly reassuring. At least if any vaguely sane people were there against their will, sooner or later the bed manager would have them back on the street. Having spoken to several patients who have been detained against their will under section 2 of the Mental Health Act, (or sectioned as it's generally know) they seemed to realise, after they'd been given drugs that they actually needed to be sectioned. They were embarrassed by the fact it had happened, but they understood. I'm not saying that it's not impossible for people who don't really need it to be admitted, but it's very rare. And if there's one phrase that seems to put the fear of God into the psychiatrists, it is 'Mental Health Review Tribal'. Any patient can request one, and they're held within 72 hours. It mainly involves several solicitors, hospital managers and social workers, investigating the case, and grilling the Doctors.
That the System is Failing Psychiatric Patients Who Are Cared For in The Community
Every psychiatric patient has a 'keyworker' who sorts our their accommodation, benefits, and jobs and, surprisingly, they don't all end up homeless. Having sat through three hours of discussion on how various social workers were attempting to get adequate accommodation for patients, I can assure you that, most of the time, they do get sorted out. Well most of the time at the hospital I'm in.
That Psychiatric Patients are Scary and May Attack You
According to a reliable source, well the Sub Dean for Psychiatry, you're more likely to be attacked by your spouse than a psychiatric patient. My flat mate pointed out that I didn't have a spouse to murder me, but that didn't mean I was immune to being murdered. A cynic might point out that when one is arguing with ones husband or wife whilst they are chopping things with a large knife, one tends not to have a magic button that immediately summons six burly nurses. As you can tell from the fact that I'm typing this I haven't been murdered yet - of course I may have been by the time that it goes to print. If you check this website you'll easily be able to find out whether any students from Birmingham were murdered in the last few days.
Of course by the time you read this I could be wrong; this is all based on just three weeks of experience. Still, that's three weeks more than the journalists who write articles on how care in the community is failing. If anyone if offended by this I'm sorry.