Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: It's kind of a funny story (how I can't NOT be a shrink).

It’s actually pretty hard for me to read books about kids with depression, anxiety, PTSD or whatever. Hard isn’t the right word. It’s not as enjoyable for me as it might be for others. I’m like a painter in a museum. I can’t relax and let the story unfold; I have to critique the interactions the characters are having with their therapists, look for symptoms that are inconsistent with their stated diagnosis, lament therapeutic responses to comments that go unsaid… that kind of thing. Basically, I pick apart details that are so minor they don’t really affect the story that much. Plus, I keep a critical eye open for whether I think it would be a good recommendation for other mental health providers or even my own patients to read.

All that being said. I enjoyed reading about Craig’s fall into some fairly significant depression. He spends a week in an adult inpatient hospital which gives him time to think about what’s important to him and how to make meaningful changes in his life. The relationships that Craig forms and the people that he meets while hospitalized are realistic and true to experiences I’ve seen while working in similar places. This makes sense, since the author himself spent a week in a hospital before writing this book. Craig also gets a new appreciation for some of the things he has going for himself.

As an aside: people don’t really think about how different the culture of mental health care can be depending on what region you’re in. The way things are done in New York City are very different from the way they’re done Upstate, for example. It was interesting to read about the psycho-pharmacologist and their role in referring to a therapist, or many therapists in Craig’s case. That’s not unheard of here, but the book sort of sounds like it’s a matter of course but maybe that’s only the case for the family in the book. It’s certainly not the only way to do things, which is good given the shortage of psychiatric medication providers in my area.

This book’s mental health stuff didn’t irk me too much and it was easy to settle in with the characters and the angst of the teen lead. As I said, many things ring true and are likely related to the author’s own experiences. A book with irritating mental health elements: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. But that’s because there is a special place in my heart for undiagnosed PTSD.

My soapbox bit: Yes, mental illness has biological components. For many illnesses, symptoms are just as well, if not better, managed through behavioral interventions and lifestyle changes. We have an unhealthy reverence for medications in this country and a belief that medication will cure mental illness. This belief can be dangerous. It’s also important to note that “False Shifts” aren’t all bad. Don’t “should” yourself out of appreciating them.

Also. I obviously won't be seeing this movie. I don't do that.

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