Doctors' Diagnosis Doctors' diagnosis


BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1324
  1. Helen Crane (, journalist1
  1. 1 Ashtead KT21 1QF

    Mike Shooter, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who holds a regular weekly clinic in south Wales; he has suffered bouts of depression throughout his career. Helen Crane, a journalist who has been hospitalised with severe depression three times, spoke to him about how being a patient has helped him be a better doctor

    The world of a person with depression can be shrouded in despair, forcing retreats from humanity, so for someone with a disabling depressive illness to pick medicine as a career, with all its emotional and physical demands, is an unusual move. And of all the possible specialties, to select psychiatry, where communication is of the essence, is even more remarkable. And then finally to branch out into grief and bereavement work seems a truly astounding career choice for someone who suffers from profound depression.

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    A bout of depression left Mike Shooter on the brink of committing suicide


    But when Cambridge history and law graduate and former lorry driver, journalist, teacher, and carpet salesman Mike Shooter, now president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, decided to study medicine, his family thought at last his career was set for calmer waters.

    He was in his mid-20s when he struggled for the science qualifications he needed, fought for a place at medical school, and found himself back as a student at Cambridge. But just as he was about to qualify, he was overwhelmed by a major bout of depression, the first and worst of the depressive episodes that have dogged his life. “I got thunderously depressed, but I thought it was more to do with my ability to do medicine. I was thoroughly dejected …

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