Wednesday, June 13, 2018

41: Using Creativity to Help Patients and Students as a Psychiatrist with Caroline Giroux


Have recent celebrity suicides left you with a deep sadness and wonderment at what it takes to go that far into depression? Those are common thoughts when we hear the news that someone was so overwhelmed by life’s difficulties that suicide seemed the only answer. The good news is that hope is available for anyone who needs it, and life is full of possibilities for connection and support---and yes, creativity that brings joy, mindfulness, satisfaction, and peace.

Dr. Caroline Giroux is a psychiatrist who migrated from Canada and is now Associate Professor at UC Davis. Through narrative approaches, she has the privilege to witness her patients’ growth and be inspired by their resilience. Apart from addressing the impact of traumatic experiences throughout the lifespan, she is an educator, an academic writer, an essayist, and a poet. She channels her creativity by designing teaching tools such as courses on mood disorders for medical students and a monthly newsletter for residents She is the mother of three spirited sons and has no shortage of opportunities to express her creativity through kids’ stories and various family projects.

Caroline is a creative physician who writes professionally and personally. She shares some of her poetry and essays in Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine, the official journal of the medical society by the same name. This lifestyle journal promotes the history, art, and science of medicine, the protection of public health, and the well-being of patients and their caregivers. I have the privilege of serving on the editorial committee of the journal with Caroline and am happy to share this conversation with you.

Show HIghlights:

  • How Caroline came to psychiatry, knowing even in high school that she wanted a medical field that allowed her to use her creativity and writing
  • How she wanted to give hope to people through their deep sorrows
  • How her parents inspired her to want to work in helping others and find gratification in service
  • The difference in the college education systems in Canada and the US
  • Why she pursued a physical therapy degree first and then went on to medical school, not knowing the reintegration of body and mind in medicine would make her PT “detour” worthwhile and very helpful
  • The creatives in her family: a great uncle who was a priest, poet, and writer; and her aunt who is a painter and poet
  • How depression and suicide rates have risen over 30% in the past 20 years and how creative people are keenly affected
  • The struggle to reconcile our image of ourselves with what others think of us
  • How some celebrities are disconnected from their families and struggle with addiction and substance abuse
  • Alienation from others and self is a common theme and an inability to transform from a difficult circumstance
  • Healing and empowerment come when people are willing to transform from fear, shame, and hopelessness
  • How even Robin Williams, “the king of laughter,” had problems and a severe mental illness that people weren’t aware of
  • What we can learn about attempted suicide to affect policies about gun violence
  • When people reach a high stress situation and are overwhelmed, if they don’t have a coping mechanism, but have alcoholism and available guns---a ticking time bomb is the result
  • Why we need to talk about suicide and deepen our understanding
  • 12-25% of people experience depression, with men expressing it more openly but women being more willing to seek help
  • The need is to expand coping skills to deal with stressors more effectively now and later in life
  • The need for a “sabbatical of the soul” and respite to fight against overwhelming feelings
  • There are many resources available to treat substance abuse and depression
  • How religious affiliations can help because of the sense of community and the ritual practices that induce mindfulness
  • How the celebrity lifestyle can take away the joy and mindfulness we gain from simple, daily, repetitive activities
  • Why self-care is extremely vital for doctors and healthcare workers, in the form of exercise, mindfulness, yoga, and socialization activities
  • Caroline’s thoughts on creativity: “We all have an innate potential for creativity, even those who might not think they are creative. We access this creativity for problem-solving, clarity, and mindfulness. Find your creative path.”

Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Line  1-800-273-8255


Check out this episode!

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