This is the scourge of mentalhealth care in America.
I'd love to get a copy of the issue in which Nancy Graff told her story; she, too, deserves credit for sharing her experiences.
Rita M. Parker
I was very interested in the article by Nancy Price Graff in your Fall 2005 issue. She eloquently described her ongoing treatment for chronic depression, including as an inpatient at DHMC.
I understand far more about what she has gone through than I would have a year ago, for I spent the winter term this year—during my junior year at Dartmouth College—as the activities therapy intern on DHMC's Inpatient Psychiatry Unit. My internship involved recruiting, training, and coordinating the other student volunteers who conduct leisure activities for patients on the unit. It also involved daily interaction with people suffering from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and dementia.
I learned during my internship that mental illness is much more common than we think, and that it is a very stereotyped view of the mentally ill that we see in the media. I also discovered that patients' appearance is not necessarily consistent with the severity of their disorder. At first, I found it easy to dismiss those who were missing limbs, drooling, and saying things that made no sense—until I realized that they had emotions and interests all their own and sometimes even similar to mine. On the other hand, I found that an attractive, positive exterior can sometimes belie serious inner turmoil.
As I spent more time with the patients, I came to see each one's unique charms, talents, and dreams. Soon, the stereotypes I'd brought in with me were replaced by meaningful relationships with
the patients. I began to understand that they are just like the rest of us, that mental health is a continuum of symptoms, and that all of us share universal challenges related to trust, honesty, and dependency.
Finally, I learned that like many other enterprises, mentalhealth care is very much a team effort. Each member of the team—psychiatrist, medical student, resident, nurse, therapist, intern, and volunteer—contributes a piece of the puzzle of patients' treatment. In fact, volunteers play an especially significant role, as patients sometimes present themselves in different ways to different people.
I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to open my mind, expand my comfort zone, and challenge myself. Through lessons such as these, I came to realize that I, too, experienced healing on the unit.
Dartmouth College '07
My father suffered severe burns as a young man during World War II, and growing up we couldn't help but notice that his ears were very different—practically carved out of his head.
I recently obtained his military records and read the reports of the many surgeries he had at Cushing Hospital between 1945 and 1947. Major Radford Tanzer [later a longtime member of the Dartmouth faculty] was listed as his doctor in the records.
I then found the article about Dr. Tanzer's development of the technique for total ear reconstruction in the online edition of Dartmouth Medicine. It was very interesting to read that his work on my father led not only to my father getting a second chance at a quality life, but that it was pioneering work which led to even greater advances. I appreciated your story about this wonderful doctor.
Shhh . . .
I'd like to request a subscription to Dartmouth Medicine, starting with the fascinating Spring 2006 issue—which I spent too much time reading in my doctor's office this morning. I used to read the magazine when I was the medical librarian at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and would like to see it regularly again. Thank you.
Martha J. Fenn
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