All residents know that psychiatry training involves extensive immersion in clinical work, teaching, and learning administrative and research skills. But if the profession of psychiatry was a chair, the “fourth leg” would be advocacy for patients.
Learning to advocate for our patients is especially important in psychiatry because:
So many of our patients and their families are unable to advocate for themselves
Stigma against mental illness is alive and well
There continues to be much public misinformation about our profession, mental illness, and effective treatments
In our residency training program, we encourage and assist residents in becoming active, knowledgeable and skilled advocates: to learn about various levels of advocacy, to understand mental health policies, and to be effective communicators to legislators and the public.
Every spring, our residents travel to Springfield, Illinois, along with fellow residents other Chicago-area psychiatry residents and several members of the Illinois APA District Branch leadership, to spend a full day meeting with state legislators. The residents are prepared with “talking points”, their own expertise in clinical psychiatry, and lots of energy. The day is always a whirlwind of meetings and discussions with senators and representatives.