I have found that there is a lot of the stigma associated with psychiatry. Much of this seems to be because of the lack of understanding we have of the field. Even medical professionals and people working in psychiatry do not have a very good grasp of the pathophysiology of many of these illnesses. However, just because we do not have an explanation for something does not mean it does not exist. Because people do not like to admit to having psychiatric conditions and the media portrays it as almost magical, it is easy to ignore or completely miss these diagnoses.
This has become especially apparent to me after seeing so many people whose lives have been completely altered by a mental illness. Often their last resort is hospitalization – which is unfortunate because there are so many drugs and treatments shown to make a difference if started early enough. Admittedly, this is not the type of strict evidence-based medicine that the health care system would like to follow. However, there are several barriers to research in psychiatry that are virtually impenetrable. For one, it is nearly impossible to preform randomized clinical trials on human beings. In addition, there are so many ethical and legal principles that would be violated by implementing experiments on psych patients. Thus, it becomes almost impossible to empirically understand why psychiatric problems exist and how they should be treated.
Despite these setbacks and our very limited knowledge of psychopathology, psychiatric interventions do work. They, like other medications, have side effects and unwanted problems, but overall they do help people function better in society and regain at least part of their previous abilities. These interventions are not limited to medications either. They include a whole host of other things like electroconvulsive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, etc.
It is easy to ignore or discredit psychiatry. However, these are the most common conditions in the world, and arguably, the most debilitating. This is a field that is on the cutting edge of medical research and further studies are desperately needed.