Opinion: I work in a locked psychiatric ward. These days, you do too

At parties, I used to explain to people who wanted to know what I do — I’m a psychiatrist — that caring for people with mental illness on a psych ward is like working in a place apart from the world. I don’t say that anymore. These days, the whole world feels like the psych ward. Everyone is discouraged by past harms and present fears. The people who need meds the most are the most reluctant to take them. Most everyone wants out, but many worry they will never leave, and everyone wonders how things will be on the other side.

And I certainly won’t be saying that at holiday parties this year, since I am quarantining with a breakthrough infection. Even if I was out of quarantine, most parties have been cancelled here in Colorado, where I live and work, because the state is entering its third wave of the pandemic. The state has fully vaccinated 69% of eligible people, but the hospitals are full, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is helping staff them, and the governor is enacting crisis standards of care.

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