Something I read around the web regarding psychiatrists.
How can they understand if they don’t suffer the symptoms?
My opinion: They probably can’t.
Lets ask another question:
Can they help if they don’t understand?
I am not very articulate lately so this probably not going to be too long or too thoughtful. My main idea is that you don’t need to go through it or have gone through it to be able to help a person successfully from a specific profession. In the same way a doctor doesn’t need to suffer from a heart infarction to know how to treat one, a psychiatrist doesn’t need to be depressed to know what to do about it. The fact that it still doesn’t work may obey to a number of factors starting with the fact that mental illnesses are generally hard to deal with and there’s a lot left to know about them.
Now if they do have depression, that won’t stop one mental health professional to do their job either – of course it has to be harder for them. Going to the extreme, it would be kind of chaotic to have a psychiatrist who suffers from all the disorders he treats! O_O
If I ever become a psychiatrist after suffering from depression myself, it would help me on some aspects: I would probably be very passionate about it, and I would empathise well with the people with depression. However one can be good at their job without having this emotional impulse and one can be an expert in what to do without empathising. In conclusion, it is not required to have gone through it to do your job well. The sole experience of the illness doesn’t give me the ultimate advantage: right now I might understand how people with depression feel but I’m as clueless in what to do about them that I am about what to do about myself. I might share experiences and make the other person feel understood, that in turn might help the person feel better – but this is not about temporary solutions of that kind. Feeling Better one rainy afternoon != Depression has been cured.
Now, empathy. In the mental health world empathy IS necessary for some things, like treatment compliance. And without treatment compliance there’s no treatment! So this is kind of important for most people. The thing is… while it helps to have been through it, it is possible to have empathy without necessarily having lived the experience.
On another note, treatment compliance is what I don’t have.