Getting off of the 501 streetcar, I realized this may be the last time I make this trip for a while. I soaked in the Ossington Avenue intersection, after almost being ran-over by a passing car (ah, the familiar feeling), and walked towards the doors of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). As I peered at the campus, my sense of loss was accented with fondness and the strange intervention of excitement at what is to come.
I had officially departed the Department of Psychiatry, and joined the Department of Family Medicine.
I know what you’re thinking. This guy with the mental health blog, leaving psychiatry? That doesn’t make any sense!
All I can say is, we all have our own journey.
During my time in psychiatry, I worked in a variety of hospitals across the city of Toronto, CAMH being among the most memorable. I had the privilege of working with some of the world’s – that’s rights, world’s – leading experts in mental health. It was truly an honour. Psychiatry has given me more than I can possibly express through the lens of a blog post. I know that because of the Department, I am a better person, and a better physician.
So what gives? I just wasn’t happy.
The supervisors and colleagues I have worked with in psychiatry have done, and will continue to do, amazing work and help heal some of society’s most marginalized. For myself, the opportunity to see a broader variety of people, and be more of a utilitarian with my skills, as opposed to a specialist, has come to reveal itself as important to my happiness. I remain passionate about mental health. Every single one of us is touched by mental illness, in some way. There isn’t a patient that presents to a physician anywhere in this country who hasn’t been influenced by their own psychology.
The absence of a mental health system in Ontario has played a role in this difficult decision. The number of times I have recommended CBT to someone, knowing their options are 1-2 year waitlist or out-of-pocket, is heartbreaking. Discharging severely unwell people, with attenuated psychotic symptoms, or severe drug addiction, to the street, because the waitlists for supported mental health housing can be almost a decade, is gut wrenching.
This is no fault of my amazing colleagues, who at this very moment continue to fight and advocate for the patients for which they care. Malignant neglect by the government’s of this province – and frankly, the country – have resulted in a patchy system with too many holes.
It’s not all bad – change is coming. The programs CAMH continues to create and advocate for are world-class and industry-leading. But as I am sure many of you know, there remains a way to go.
Which for me, means it’s time to move on. And I’m excited. For new beginnings. For a change of pace. For brighter days. And for my General Surgery rotation (just kidding, terrified about that one!)
Goodbye Psychiatry, I’ll miss you.
Dr. Travis Barron is a resident physician in Toronto, Canada.