An opportunity for hope?
By William B. Lawson MD, PhD, DLFAPA
I am old enough and fortunate enough to see and appreciate the changes that have occurred over the past half century in the health care system, especially regarding mental health. I still vividly remember visiting a state mental hospital where a great uncle spent much of his life. The building had all of the negative aspects of an institution including limited resources and communal showers. But then chlorpromazine (thorazine), a drug used for treating certain mood disorders, was invented and he was able to spend the rest of his days at home with his family. Fast-forward several decades, when I began my career as a psychiatrist, I was part of a team that completed a study with clozapine, the first antipsychotic that was demonstrably superior to others. Again, I saw the wonders of medical technology as people with severe mental illness once relegated to back wards in chronic institutions were able to engage in meaningful relationships and live productive lives. Relative to the rest of medicine, treatment of the mentally ill is relatively young and the wonders of new advances and treatment long seen in antibiotic therapy and cancer treatment are still emerging in psychiatry.