Just over five years ago, Anne Hanson, Steve Daviss, and I started a blog we called Shrink Rap. “A blog by psychiatrists for psychiatrists. A place to talk; no one has to listen.” Five years later, and we are still avidly blogging on Shrink Rap. While some of our readers are psychiatrists, many are not. There’s a lot of talking, and perhaps some occasional listening! Later that same year, 2006, we began a podcast Steve called My Three Shrinks—we’ve now had 58 episodes up on iTunes. Somehow, a yellow rubber duck has become our mascot, and spaced in with some humor and playfulness, we and our readers have had a lot to say about the current practice of psychiatry. Over the last few years, we’ve put our ideas together in a more cohesive and serious endeavor as a book, Shrink Rap: Three Psychiatrists Explain Their Work, released last month by the Johns Hopkins University Press. The book is an “old media” thing...you can hold it, touch it, even turn the pages or write on it with a pen, but it also comes in Kindle and other e-readers form for those who won’t go back. In addition, we have a Facebook page and twitter feeds, and we’ve talked together at APA annual meetings, and on Talk of the Nation. We were delighted when Clinical Psychiatry News asked us to add a blog on their website!
So how did three mainstream, middle-career psychiatrists, distinguished fellows of the APA, become involved in all this on-line silliness ? When we started Shrink Rap, blogging was still a fringy activity, and when I told other psychiatrists I had a blog, they looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I would certainly get sued, if not sanctioned, jailed, and exposed to my patients! My co-bloggers spent the first year in disguise. Anne Hanson, a forensic psychiatrist, blogs under the handle ClinkShrink and was convinced I was going to get her fired. Steve Daviss was deep cover “Roy.”
Shrink Rap, My Three Shrinks, emotional support ducks, and banter in a tone that is quite casual at moments, but we retained a clear line of respect for the very important issues, controversies, and clinical sufferings we learned about as we proceeded. And clearly, we learned a lot, often more from those who use mental health services, than from those who provide them. Our on-line adventures turned out to be surprisingly gratifying, as well as fun. But we needed a more professional label, one that would serve as an umbrella title for our different projects, and would explain our work in a meaningful way. We called this The Accessible Psychiatry Project.
Simply put, the Accessible Psychiatry Project strives to encourage dialogue about psychiatric disorders and their treatment in order to explore issues of controversy and misunderstanding in our field. Through open dialogue, in both new media and print, we hope to foster discussion about the work psychiatrists do, and to decrease stigma associated with the treatment of mental disorders.
So who are we? Steve has worked in many different psychiatric settings and for the last few years, he’s been Chair of Psychiatry at the Baltimore-Washington Medical Center where he practices hospital-based psychiatry. Steve has been working at online engagement and education in issues related to psychiatry for nearly 20 years, even before the world wide web was born. In 1993, while working his fellowship in schizophrenia research with Dr. William T. Carpenter's group, he started an online listserv discussion group (SCHIZ-L) to connect schizophrenia researchers with families and consumers affected by schizophrenia. He also penned "An Internet Primer for Mental Health Professionals" back then, accessible only via gopher. In the late '90s, he answered lay questions every Sunday night in AOL's Depression Information Forum chat room, and also worked with the health community, Healant. He later started psychopharminfo.com, a website and weekly newsletter about the latest psychopharm research geared towards the public. This ended in 2004, so he was primed to roll up his sleeves when I approached him in 2006 about writing a blog.
Anne is a forensic psychiatrist who works in corrections and is Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship for the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She has worked part-time as a computer programmer and she loves a variety of athletic adventures, including Tai Chi, running, rock climbing, and Anne recently learned to swim so she could go scuba diving after the APA’s annual meeting in Hawaii.