December 2019, Vol. 10, Issue 4
In This Issue



Yazhini Srivathsal, MD, MBA
Newsletter Guest Editor
Public Affairs Committee,
Arizona Psychiatric Society
Dear Colleagues, 
Season's Greetings! This is a beautiful and magical time of the year, with all the festivities, and sparkling lights igniting our spirits! We the lucky Arizonans, have got it all, be it a warm weather celebration, or a snow-covered cold and cozy one.
It is also the time of the year to remember the ones who are not lucky enough to be around to celebrate with us.... The ones who we lost, but their memories etched forever in our minds. This could sometimes be our patients, people who we tried our best to help, but the disease being so potent had them take their own lives. We, in our field of work do such powerful work with such fragile yet strong side of the human spirit, and touch millions of lives in very meaningful ways. This issue of our newsletter is dedicated to suicide prevention.
Our Governor's initiative for suicide prevention is a laudable effort, with the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) being awarded nearly $1 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance to increase and expand mental health support, trauma-informed initiatives and suicide prevention efforts in Arizona schools. According to our Arizona Department of Health Services, our state's overall suicide rate went up from 15.4 in 2006 to 18 in 2017, per 100,000 deaths, which is alarming, and reducing suicide is one of the top priorities of Arizona Health Improvement Plan (AzHIP). In this newsletter, we want to highlight the exemplary work done by two organizations - Kid in the Corner and JEM Foundation.
I also want to emphasize the importance of self-preservation among us, the healers, the medical community. The APA Workgroup on Psychiatrist Well-being and Burnout data shows that the rates of suicide among physicians are higher than the general population, and most studies of suicide rate by specialty reveal that psychiatrists have higher rates of suicide completion than other specialties. So, we as a group have to be aware of taking care of ourselves, and be open to reaching out for support when we need it. I am glad that we have platforms like our Arizona Psychiatric Society where we can provide support for each other, and have a sense of belonging to a part of a community.
In this issue, we also want to pay our respects to one of our very own Dr. Kawamoto, an early career psychiatrist who died from health complications late stage in her pregnancy in 2019.
On a brighter note, in this issue, we are going to shine a spotlight on Dr. Gagandeep Singh, on Meet Your Member Profile and learn more about him! We also have the final installment on ECP lifestyle from Dr. Reesal.
I hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter. Happy Holidays and wishing you and your loved ones a Wonderful New Year!
Yazhini Srivathsal, MD, MBA, Guest Editor

Dr. Fowls, Alexander, and Volfson, together with ArMA physician leaders, join Senator Heather Carter for a fireside chat on important legislative issues in healthcare.


Don J. Fowls, MD
President, Arizona Psychiatric Society

I hope you all are enjoying a very Happy Holiday season. At this time of year it can be good to reflect back on 2019 and consider the possibilities for 2020. 2019 has been a very good year for us and our Society, and I want to thank you all for your participation in making our organization strong and vibrant.
2020 will be an important year for us. In addition to the many issues like opioids and suicide that call for our attention, another issue - parity -  has created a need for us to stand up and respond. While parity is actually the federal law of the land, many states have not fully implemented it. With the help of the national APA office and our lobbyist Joe Abate, several of us are working with key stakeholders to produce legislation into this upcoming legislative session to further its reality in Arizona. The phrase "cautious optimism" applies here, and thru our collaborative work with many other organizations and individuals we may achieve success. In any event, we have established the important role psychiatrists can play in the policy and legislative process.
I am very happy to report that Joe Parks MD, Medical Director for the National Council for Behavioral Health, will speak at our annual meeting in May. He will shed light on legal and regulatory actions improving access to psychiatric services including enforcement of parity.
In closing let me thank you again for your  help in making 2019 a very productive year for our organization. With you I look forward to 2020 for another a great year, and send my very best wishes to you and your families for a happy and healthy New Year.
Arizona Psychiatric Society Vice President

A note of prelude from Guest Editor, Dr. Srivathsal:  We asked Dr. Singh if he has any specific words of wisdom regarding suicide prevention, especially among physicians, and he said "The ability to find meaning and a sense of connectedness seem to reduce our risk. Hopefully APS can help us find a way to connect with each other". Thank you. Dr. Singh for sharing your thoughts with us, and it is a pleasure knowing more about you!
I was born and raised in India. As my father worked for the Indian railways I was able to travel a lot while growing up and am still hooked to opening my horizons through travel. After high school the big decision point for me was, whether to enter art school or medical school. I think I chose wisely. I graduated from the University of Delhi, Maulana Azad Medical College in 1995, and completed my Psychiatry training at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN in 2001. 

The fact that I could get paid for talking with people and listening to their stories was what attracted me to psychiatry. And to this day, the ability to talk with my patients is what I like the most about psychiatry. 

My 1 st job out of residency was in a small town in Iowa where I ran a 12-bed inpatient unit, an addictions IOP, mental health PHP and a busy outpatient practice seeing patients that ranged in age from 5 to a 100. After that, I was on faculty at the University of Utah. There, I did a mix of inpatient psychiatry, consultation liaison psychiatry, ECT and worked in the University Counseling Center. 

Before coming to Arizona, I was in the D.C suburbs where I was the Associate Medical Director for Behavioral Health at the Inova health system. I was also on faculty at GWU and VCU. I have worked at Banner health since moving to Arizona in 2013, initially as the Chair for Banner Medical Group's Behavioral Health department and now as CMO for Banner Behavioral Health Hospital and Service line.  

My areas of interest are iImproving how we deliver care, C/L psychiatry and neurostimulation (ECT/TMS). I would like to thank my mentors and my patients. My residents/ students recognizing my teaching abilities with awards, and more importantly that several have gone on to become really good psychiatrists is what I consider a highlight in my career. 

As American medicine moves towards a direction of value based care, what we do as psychiatrists becomes more and more important. This is because we add value to health care in terms of improved quality of care and outcomes while reducing costs of care. While this is a trend that I like in psychiatry, the trend that I do not like is the fact that when our patients ask for "care" we simply hand out a pill.

I am married to Shalini Wahi, one of the best psychologists in town (in my opinion). I have two kids who are in University and have been running an NGO to help at risk Indian kids, since high school.

CLICK ABOVE to apply online
The JEM Foundation was founded in memory of Jacob Edward Machovsky who was lost to suicide on January 11, 2016. The Society invited founders, Denise and Ben Denslow, to submit an article about their work honoring Jake and their fight for access to care for all.
January 11, 2016, changed the course of our lives forever. On that day, we lost our son Jacob Edward Machovsky to suicide. He was only 15. We play that day over and over in our heads, and though everyone has told us not to play the what-if game, I don't know how you can't, after that kind of loss.
Jake struggled since he was a toddler, and though he was one of the most empathetic people I had ever met, he struggled with mental illness and violent outbursts. It took years to find a doctor who would treat Jake, many times we heard he was too young, then too old, and some doctors would only spend 5 minutes with him and diagnose him with something that we knew he didn't have. It was a constant battle. We finally found a good psychiatrist and therapist, and he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just a few shorts weeks before we lost him.
You would have liked Jake; he was always smiling and had the most infectious laugh. He was active and played hockey and football. He loved food, and boy did he like to eat. He stood up for kids that were being bullied or left out. After Jake passed, we did the Out of Darkness walk at ASU. At that time, we were the largest group they had ever had. One of Jake's friends took an Uber to the event because his mom was working and couldn't give him a ride. He planned on walking over 10 miles home after the walk. We met him that day, and he said Jake always stood up for him, and he had to walk for him. Of course, we drove him home and are still in touch with him and his family. That is just one testament to the kind of kid Jake was. Many didn't know he struggled with mental illness, and they thought he was a happy kid from a good, stable home. Suicide and mental illness do not discriminate.
Jake had been hospitalized twice in under two months for suicidal ideation, and both times he was released in only five days. We knew he wasn't ready, but we couldn't get the insurance company to pay for the needed treatment. After we lost Jacob, we vowed not one more would be lost to suicide due to denial of care from the insurance companies. That is when we founded The JEM Foundation. Unfortunately, our story is not unique. Many families are devastated financially and emotionally, trying to get mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) care for a loved one.
Suicides are at epidemic levels. Our focus at The JEM Foundation is youth suicide, but we know the issue goes far past our youth. Senior citizens are most at risk for suicide. In AZ:
·     Child suicides increased 32% from 2016-2017.
·     68% of suicide deaths occurred in children 15-17 years of age.
·     Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34.
·     On average, we lose someone to suicide every 7 hours.
Worldwide, we lose someone to suicide every 40 seconds. MH/SUD do not discriminate. They can affect anyone, from any social class, and any ethnicity. Many with mental illness feel ashamed, because of stigma. That is something we must breakthrough. There is no shame in having an illness, especially one that affects the brain. The brain is an organ and can get sick just like any other. Let's help others understand that.
After we lost Jake we started looking at what we could do, we felt we had failed our son, but we knew, because of what a kind individual he was, that he would want us to help others. So we started The JEM Foundation and, after much research, found out there was already a federal law in place that requires insurance companies who cover both mental health and physical health to do so equally. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), also known as the Federal Parity law, was passed in 2008. Over ten years later, and we are still fighting for mental health equality. We at JEM, along with several partners, are fighting diligently to enact a state parity law that will ensure insurance companies treat MH/SUD equally with physical health. We are beyond grateful for our partners, the Arizona Psychiatric Society, American Psychiatric Association, The Kennedy Forum, Mental Health America of AZ, MIKID, and The Arizona Council of Human Service Providers
We are an all-volunteer run organization. We can't bring Jake back but can ensure this doesn't happen to any other family. We can't do this alone. Will you help us?  
Ben and Denise Denslow, The JEM Foundation 

(Visit The JEM Foundation at its website, Facebook, or Twitter for more information and for resources that can be shared.)

Is it your calling to serve our Nation's Heroes?  Avosys is seeking a Psychiatrist to provide outpatient services to the military and their families at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.  A full job description is available by CLICKING HERE.
  • Maximize family time with no weekend, Holiday, or on-call requirements
  • Maintain work-life balance with guaranteed 8-hour shifts
  • Take advantage of our competitive, comprehensive benefits package including medical, dental, vision, life, short-term disability, long-term disability & 401(k).   CLICK HERE  for applying for the part-time position CLICK HERE for applying for the full-time position.    E-mail Rene Reyna, Corporate Recruiter, for more information.  
Kid in the Corner is a parent-founded nonprofit whose mission is to battle the stigma around mental illness and support the kid in the corner.  The Society invited founder, Francine Sumner, to share with our members information about the organization's efforts to combat social isolation and stigma in our community.

I founded a non-profit called Kid in the Corner, shortly after Zach died by suicide in 2017 aimed at shattering the stigma around mental illness and supporting the kid in the corner whomever that may be. I still can't believe he is gone. I never ever want another family to suffer the loss of a child by suicide. We are forever broken. Zach exemplified kindness at all times! When he was struggling with his short battle with mental illness, he was devastated when none of his peers or anyone else for that matter, showed much interest in his well-being (or so he thought). Why? Because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness...pure and simple. 

Kid in the Corner ( is determined to shatter the stigma that cloaks mental illness by going into the schools and teaching kids how to navigate their mental health. Through our Penny Pledge program, we teach kids how to reach out to others who may be struggling, how to take care of their own mental health, and how to be a safe and caring person that others can talk to  and how to spread kindness (#ZachsLegacy). We have programming for every grade level and to date we have had over 7,000 people take the Penny Pledge. We have made a difference and have even saved lives. 

Zach was a coin collector and pennies were his specialty.   By wearing pennies around our necks, on our key chains, or on our backpacks, we have a physical reminder to reach out, to be kind, and to show people that they are not alone in this struggle. Zach's pennies serve as visual symbols to prompt active listening, start bold conversations, and recognize our own mental health needs. Pennies are often discounted as insignificant. Our pledge is to remember that every cent counts.

Take the Penny Pledge:

By wearing this penny I pledge to:
Reach out to the kid in the corner.
Say hello, smile, ask where they've been
Be aware of my own mental health
It's okay to not be okay. Realize there is strength in asking for help.
Be a safe and caring person that others can talk to. 
Be a friend. Be a shoulder to lean on. Listen.
I invite you to watch this short video introducing the organization. 
KITC brings the Penny Pledge program into schools for free, and each year we are charged with raising enough money to enable us to go into every school that invites us, which is growing every single week. Our program is so compelling, and so empowering, that most teachers/administrators want us to come back with our follow-up, more in-depth, programming. We do not charge a fee to any school, and we have quarterly Community Kindness Projects that are free to the entire community. I am happy to say that we now need to hire and train presenters, do marketing, and eventually move into office space.
So...raise money we must! And after we reach every kid in Arizona, we plan to go national, so your kids, your friends' kids, and your grandchildren will hear from us at some point in the near future.
I can't change Zachary's story, but with your help, I can change the story for others.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, 
Francine Sumner, Kid in the Corner

(Visit The Kid in the Corner  at its website or on Facebook for more information about their program and resources or to support its outreach and community programs.)
Washington, DC, November 2019

Payam Sadr, MD, FAPA
Jason Curry, DO
Arizona Assembly Representatives

Dr. Jason Curry attended the APA November Assembly in Washington, DC, joined by Dr. Jasleen Chhatwal, as the Area 7 ECP Deputy Representative.  This first completely paperless meeting adopted the following position statements:  Disaster Preparedness and Response for Older Americans,  Mental Health of Foreign Nationals on Temporary Protected Status,  Addressing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in Su bstance Use Disorder Treatment in the Justice System,  Diversity and Inclusion in the Physician  Workforce,  Transitional Aged Youth,  Retired  Position Statement: Consensus Statement on Improving the Qu ality of Mental Health Care in U.S. Nursing Homes,  Retired  Position Statement: Core Principles for End - of - Life Care, Retained  Peer Review of Expert Testimony,  Revised  Relationship Between Treatment and Mutual Support,  Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Retained  Discrimination Against Persons with Previous Psychiatric Treatment,  Retained  Insanity Defense, Retained  The Need to Mo nitor and Assess the Public Health and Safety Consequences of Legalizing Marijuana, Revised  Discriminatory Disability Insurance Coverage, Revised  Assuring the Appropriate Care of Pregnant and Newly - Delivered Women wi th Substance Use Disorders, Revised  Leadership of State Behavioral Health Services, Retired  Ethical Use of Telemedicine, Retained  Joint Resolution Against Torture, Retained  Psychiatric Participation in Interrogation of Detainees,  Statement on the Care of Medically Vulnerable Migrants in the United States, and  Statement on Controlling Drug Prices.   For a report on the many action papers, reports, awards, and outcomes of the APA November Assembly, CLICK HERE .  

This article honoring the life and contributions of Yukari Kawamoto, MD, Arizona Psychiatric Society member, is authored in tribute by Lexi Erickson, DO, APS Co-RFM Representative for the Creighton University-Arizona Health Education Alliance Psychiatric Residency Program. In remembrance of Dr. Kawamoto, the Arizona Psychiatric Society 2020 Poster Competition is named in her honor (see the Call for Abstracts that follows this article).  

It has been a difficult season for the Arizona psychiatric community as we mourn the loss of Dr. Yukari Kawamoto, a beloved mentor, colleague and friend. It still seems unthinkable to lose such a beautiful soul at a time in her life that was supposed to be so exciting and wonderful. A memorial service was held at Desert Vista Hospital and members from every area of the healthcare team came to celebrate her life and share stories about how she affected their lives in a positive way. Listening to the stories shared and knowing my own experience working with Dr. K, several themes emerged that I believe are testaments to the amazing legacy she left behind. 

The first theme was that of teamwork and realizing the value of cooperation and collaboration. Dr. K showed respect to everyone around her, no matter their job title, and treated them as a valued member of a team working toward a common goal. To the residents, she was a cheerleader encouraging us to take ownership of our treatment decisions and affirming that we did, in fact, know a thing or two, even when we doubted ourselves. Colleagues talked of how she would frequently offer to take work off the hands of anyone who was overwhelmed and was the first to volunteer any time there was extra work to be done. I think it's easy in the medical field to remain wrapped up in your own tasks and to-do's, but Dr. K cared enough about those around her to help take up the yoke so their burden was lightened.  

The second theme was kindness, to anyone and everyone around her. Dr. K was known never to speak negatively about anyone and always seemed to find the good in any situation. Even in her didactics courses when you were called upon and answered incorrectly (like, not even in the ballpark), she would never berate you or question whether you read the material, her response was always to say, very kindly, "Okay, does anyone else have a guess?" 

Lastly and, to me, most impactful, was the theme of wellness; a buzz-word these days but something she seemed to master effortlessly. As psychiatrists we know wellness as having multiple different domains including physical, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational to name a few, and it's not hard to see these reflected in Dr. K's life. She recognized the importance of mentorship and actively invested in the lives of her mentees, residents and students, as well as maintaining strong relationships with her own mentors. She coined the mantra, "Don't skip lunch" and frequently reminded residents to stop, sit and eat with each other. She modeled this daily - no matter how busy she was, there was always time for lunch with her colleagues/friends. Dr. K knew every resident by name and was known to pull you into her office whenever you walked by to sit for a few minutes and talk about how residency was really going. She made it a point to learn about each of us as a person - asking about our hobbies, favorite restaurants, or what our families are like. Her genuine interest in our lives outside of the medical field helped us feel valued and connected to a community.

Dr. Kawamoto had a spirit and zest for life that seems unmatched. As a resident, although I was only able to work with her for a short time, I feel so fortunate that I did. I know she has impacted how I will practice, how I see psychiatry, and how I will treat my colleagues and those around me. What is so evident now is that she was teaching us to build a community and to care for those in that community, which breeds a spirit of wellness that is lacking in so many areas of healthcare. I know that as the Creighton/MMC residents move forward with our careers, we will carry with us these themes of teamwork, kindness and wellness, and I hope that in Dr. K's memory, we can inspire those around us to do the same.

Lexi Erickson, D.O.
CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: Arizona Psychiatric Society 2020 Annual Meeting Yukari Kawamoto, MD Poster Competition

In honor of Dr. Yukari Kawamoto and her dedication to resident physician education mentorship and education, the Arizona Psychiatric Society dedicates the 2020 Annual Meeting Poster Competition, to be held on May 9, 2020.  

The Arizona Psychiatric Society 2020 Annual Meeting Yukari Kawamoto, MD Poster Competition includes a "best of" poster presentation opportunity for Resident-Fellow Members and Medical Students that is juried for scholarship prizes and a physician peer poster presentation opportunity that is peer evaluated for gift card recognition. The  Invitation, Guidelines for RFM and Medical Students, and Guidelines for Physician Peer Posters are available here.
Visit to submit your abstract of 3000 characters or less on or before April 15, 2020.
Premium Corporate Sponsor 2019-2020 / Advertisement

CLICK HERE for the full statement, or to learn more about these efforts, visit, or follow updates at   

Resources Compilation from Mental Health America Arizona

Mental Health America Arizona is a member of the Arizona Coalition for Insurance Parity, a collaboration between the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers , JEM Foundation , Mental Health America of Arizona , MIKID , and the Neighbors Council, and including the Arizona Psychiatric Society and the Arizona Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, has compiled a special edition of the MHA Newsletter taking a deeper dive on parity, including the MHA position statement, recent data from the Milliman Report, resources from the Kennedy Foundation, information on families and advocates making a difference on parity, and how to file a complaint regarding a possible parity violation in the State of Arizona, and many other helpful insights and references.  

APA FREE MEMBER CME:  Try the APA Learning Center free with the Members Course of the Month. Each month, members have free access to an on-demand CME course on a popular topic.  CLICK HERE for the current course offering. 

Grand Rounds for the Department of Psychiatry, Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix  are held on Fridays from 12 to 1 pm in the Medical Education Ampitheatre, Banner -University Medical Center Phoenix.  In January, there will be no Grand Rounds on January 17, and January 31, 2020.  For the January schedule of topics and presenters, CLICK HERE.     

Next event in the Friends of C. G. Jung calendar:  "Synchronicity, Complexity, and the Psychoid Imagination: Examples from Ecology and Artistic Intuition," Joseph Cambroy, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst, Saturday, January 11, 2020, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, The Casa Franciscan Renewal Center, Sarah Room, Piper Hall, 5801 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona  85253.  CLICK HERE for more information, to sign-up for future event notifications, or to register.  

Plan now to attend the 2020 APA Annual Meeting, April 25 - 29, 2020 in Philadelphia, "Advancing Quality: Challenges and Opportunities," and concluding the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the APA.   Registration for the 2020 Annual Meeting Opens January 7, 2020.

Arizona State University's Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy (CABHP) is pleased to announce the 2nd Annual Winter Institute for Public Safety & Behavioral Healt2h Conference being held Feb 18-20, 2020 at the ASU West Campus in Glendale, AZ. The conference brings together experts, leaders, and veterans from Public Safety sectors including: firefighters, police officers, criminal justice professionals, emergency medical responders, and emergency response coordinators for cross training opportunities with Behavioral Health professionals in order to craft a strong, integrated, coordinated community response.  

The Nominating Committee invites members to submit their interest in serving as an executive officer of the Society (Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President) (one-year terms with opportunity to advance on the leadership ladder to President-Elect and then President), as a Co-RFM Representative (representing your psychiatric residency program), or as an Arizona APA Assembly Representative (two-year term of service with quarterly meeting travel required).  In addition, all Committees or Work Groups are open to members to join.  

 Help us learn more about your interest and vision in contributing to the Society by completing the interest form on or before January 6, 2020.  


The Arizona Opioid Prescriber Education program is a free online continuing medical education (CME) program for health care professionals that provides the latest information about Arizona's opioid laws and regulations, prescribing guidelines and treatment options for opioid use disorder. The education modules are accredited for all types of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and pharmacists and satisfy the license renewal three-hour CME requirements in Arizona law. Visit   
NAMI Az logo updated banner

"Celebrating Collaborative Community Oversight by Connecting the Dots," 
Saturday, January 11, 2020
Ability 360 Center
5025 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85034
9:30 AM to 3:00 PM
The NAMI Arizona Board of Directors invites you to attend and participate in our 2020 Annual Meeting, "Celebrating Collaborative Community Oversight by Connecting the Dots," scheduled for Saturday January 11th, 2020 at the Ability360 Conference Center, 5025 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85034 from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM.

We recognize that many of you have invested a considerable portion of your lifetimes ensuring those we love receive the very best healthcare outcomes possible.  You may be getting a little tired hoping to one day rest in the peace and comfort of knowing you've done all you can to ensure our System runs as effectively as possible. So, here's your chance to ensure your finger remains on the pulse at all times via intentional partnering and collaborative oversight.

In the spirit of our 2020 Conference theme, ""Celebrating Collaborative Community Oversight by Connecting the Dots" we invite Individual, Family, and Community Leaders representing every sector of our State to join us as we strive to ensure the Right Voices are at the Right Tables. We plan to recognize those Collaborative Community Leaders who share our common vision. And we plan to connect Conference participants to community and State initiatives that best match their talents and interests
To further demonstrate our steadfast love, respect, and appreciation for the incredible work our NAMI Arizona Affiliates do each day, NAMI Arizona is dedicating up to 50% (after expenses) of this year's Annual Meeting Sponsorship revenue to specific targeted education, development, and strengthening activities in support of our 11 officially sanctioned NAMI Affiliates (NAMI Havasu, NAMI Flagstaff, NAMI Sedona, NAMI Yavapai, NAMI White Mountains, NAMI Payson, NAMI Valley of the Sun, NAMI Pinal Central, NAMI Southern Arizona, NAMI Southeastern Arizona, and NAMI Yuma) with primary focus on provision of an  off-site summit designed to grow affiliate community impact.

Thank you for all you do for those we serve!

Thanks, Jim
Jim Dunn, M.Ed./C, CPRP
Executive Director/CEO, NAMI Arizona
5025 E. Washington St., Ste 112
Phoenix, AZ 85034
[This NAMI Arizona Annual Meeting is free and open to the public.  Peers, Family Members, Collaborators and Friends (with a special Shout Out to the Arizona Peer and Family Coalition's Civic Leadership Development Trainees) are encouraged to attend to learn how to make our voices heard.  Light morning refreshments and lunch will be provided at no fee.  Please RSVP to Sonia Johnson at  Questions?  Call Cheryl Fanning at (480) 543-0055. Sponsorships are available.]  
Part 4: Beating Loneliness and Staying Connected

Robin T. Reesal, MD, FAPA, DABPN
Psychiatrist and Educator

Beating Loneliness and Staying Connected
Starting your independent professional career is exciting but is accompanied by periods of loneliness. Let us see how you can beat loneliness and have a healthy and happy career.

As a resident you were connected to classmates with a common goal of completing your residency. This process usually involved, clinical rounds, meetings for didactic courses and off hours social gatherings. There was a sense of togetherness. Your pay check was not dependent on productivity. Your staff person was there to help when needed. On negative clinical outcome days, there were colleagues and staff to lean on.

New career
Your new career placement started with a change of expectations in terms of responsibility, decision making and workload. This role transition is stressful and rests on your shoulders. This can create feelings of loneliness down your new path.

Personal transition stressors
Other stressors that can create feelings of loneliness include a recent move, saying good bye to friends and colleagues and introducing yourself to new people. It is not easy to adjust to a new home, find the grocery stores, find your bank, find a school for your children, find a child sitter and locate health care professionals. You have to reorganize your finances, too. Oh, you are expected to continue your role as someone's support, someone's son or daughter, someone's mother or father and someone's friend. I will let you add to the lists on your own. It is worth writing down these stressors as a reminder of your new reality. There is a lot to cope with!

Loneliness can be felt in your personal life with family tragedies and losses. Interpersonal conflict with a spouse and family members can leave you feeling alone. You may have a special needs child or you may encounter your own person loss of physical or mental health leading to loneliness.

Work transition stressors
Job loneliness occurs in your daily work life. Think about this, as a psychiatrist, you sit in an office carrying out time pressured examinations one person after another. You spend a sizable amount of time looking at a computer screen and typing. In many cases, there is a minimum amount of time to socialize during the day.

Examples of lonely clinical moments can be, doing your first lumbar puncture, facing a family after reporting them to social services, or committing a patient to an inpatient unit. Feelings of loneliness can arise when a football player size patient tries to intimidate you by encroaching on your personal space.

There is a loneliness that comes with a negative treatment outcomes. Some examples include the borderline personality disorder patient who cuts herself on a week end after you saw her on the Friday afternoon. There is the call from the morgue about a patient who died by suicide or a call from the police about a patient who committed a crime. A letter of complaint from a licensing board or a patient's lawyer can create feelings of isolation, shame and loneliness.

Myth busting
All of these scenarios can have a cumulative mental, emotional and physical effect. There is a myth that being a physician makes you immune to the stressors experienced by other human beings. Not true. There is a myth that having a high intellect, strength of character and strong coping skills, shields you from health ailments. Not true. There is a myth that expressing emotions, indicating doubt and being fallible is a sign of weakness and not being "professional". Not true.

What is true? Honesty with yourself and staying connected to family, friends and colleagues can save your life. Prolonged periods of psychological or physical isolation from others is a sign of trouble.

Social connectedness
Let me share a story. One day as a senior resident, I got "caught" by my boss sitting at a nurse's desk laughing and having a good time. I felt guilty for "slacking off" and thought I was in trouble. I apologized profusely to my staff person, a behavior therapist. He laughed at me and said, "make sure you keep spending some time having fun and talking with staff. Doing that is an important to relieve stress." Needless to say, I was surprised by his response. My anecdote is a reminder to nurture the personal side of your professional demeanor. Take your breaks during the day, connect to people and engage in pleasant topics that are not work related. Open your mind's eye to pleasant life events or your next vacation.

You are human. How you rearrange your psychological house when you start your career can determine how future feelings of loneliness affect your life. Initiating social and work connections is paramount. While electronics are much maligned as a source of loneliness you can use social media as a tool to facilitate engagement with others. Give thought to the fact that there is at least one Master of Business Administration program, that I know of, which introduces their students to a psychologist for "coaching". Many graduates continue to use that resource throughout their successful careers. This is an interesting concept to consider.

This APS Newsletter offers an opportunity to stay connected, join social activities and engage with colleagues. There is nothing wrong with contacting an APS member for help or advice. They have a wealth of professional knowledge. Remember they were once an early career psychiatrist. There is no shame in feeling fear, not having all the answers or not knowing where to turn. Do not hesitate to access our community.
Starting a new career is not easy and your colleagues can help. Your mentors or staff from your residency program are also a resource. A family member or spouse can help too. The solution is to share, avoid feeling shame and seek comfort from someone you trust, who is supportive and who is nonjudgmental.

We are competitive amongst each other in medicine but please remember that we drop our competitiveness when it comes to helping each other. As a psychiatric community, we have had numerous losses over the last few years. Our leadership and our families have risen to the occasion to help each other. Beat loneliness by staying connected so you can have a happy, healthy and meaningful career.  

The Society thanks Dr. Reesal for the difference his lifestyle and wellness articles have made to our members.  This installment concludes his ECP series.  Please join us in thanking Dr. Reesal for making such a positive difference!  
Saturday, May 9, 2020 - Wild Horse Pass Conference Center, Chandler, Arizona

The date is set and the Education Committee is finalizing the Agenda for the 2020 Annual Meeting.  If you would like to plan ahead to stay over on the property and make a get-away weekend of it, Society members can book a room for a $150.00 discount rate conditioned upon space availability.  

To book your room early,  call the Wild Horse Pass (Gila River) reservations department at 520-796-4900 and mention the group name as, "Arizona Psychiatric Society Annual Meeting."   Or CLICK HERE for an online link to book your room directly.