Rethinking Psychiatry

By Larissa Chern ’17

As a student, I find myself shocked at the number of teenagers who, desperate to focus in class and get better grades, make an appointment with a psychiatrist and, in the span of an hour manage to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for Adderall. And it’s no secret that children are being diagnosed and treated with drugs starting at a very early age, which may disturb their natural course of development as well as family stability. On Monday night (Feb. 22), award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker paid us a visit at the Athenaeum to talk about this: is our current paradigm of psychiatric care working for us?

Today, psychotropic medication is the first line for treatment of severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. And the number of patients on psychiatric medication use and of people diagnosed with psychological disorders will only keep growing. What most healthcare specialists fail to note however, is that even after having had prescribed anti-psychotics for over 50 years, we still lack compelling evidence of its long-run effectiveness. Studies show that the relapse of patients on drugs is much more severe than that of patients on placebo. The same study showed that after five years of having been diagnosed, 50% of un-medicated patients were in remission for schizophrenia as opposed to only 5% of those who were on medication.

Following years of extensive research, a McGill professor made the groundbreaking discovery that anti-psychotics, in the long-run, might actually increase the biological susceptibility to and severity of psychosis. Yet, these study results are not disclosed to the general public because they oppose everything pharmaceutical companies and psychiatrists have ever defended. If we are interested in the long-term effects of psychotropic drug use, we must reevaluate these points of contention immediately.

Although Mr. Whitaker declared himself unable to provide medical advice, he has dedicated his entire career to researching and writing about medicine with the sponsoring of the Harvard Medical School. While I remain impartial to the debate at hand, I agree that it is essential to conduct more research and investigate the effects of psychiatric drug use in a full and open manner. In order to better assist our children, we need to rethink the idea that drugs should be the first line of treatment for psychological difficulties.

Women in the World of High Tech

The numbers, apparently, don’t lie: according to the Labor Department’s latest race and gender data on the top ten tech firms, roughly 83% of tech jobs are held by men. Lucky for us, then, that we were able to be in the presence of four very successful women, all CMC alums, currently working at high tech jobs in Silicon Valley. They came to the Ath as part of the CIE’s “Entrepreneurship Week,” and were the first in a series of events taking place at CMC this week.

Candace Adelberg ’10 works as part of Google’s Counter-Abuse Technology team; Kristie Howard ’15 is a software engineer at Docker, Inc., a San Francisco startup that makes building and shipping applications; Mayumi Matsuno ’01 is Director of Product at Electric Imp, a cloud service and hardware solution that facilitates connecting devices to the Internet; and Jacinth Sohi ’11, is a Product Support Manager at Uber, specializing in scaling the infrastructure and launching support operations for new products like UberEATS and UberPOOL.

Though each of these women graduated at the top of their class, they came to their careers in different ways. Howard, for example, received her BA in Computer Science, and felt that taking coding courses in college was extremely helpful. Adelberg, however, is adamant about the fact that the solid foundation you get from a liberal arts education is important: “You can always learn the tech stuff later.”

Among their kernels of wisdom: take advantage of CMC and form relationships with your professors. Get experience working at one of the college’s many institutes (like Berger!). Form a support group of like-minded women who can help you navigate the many challenges faced in the competitive and male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley after you’ve come to terms with the fact that “it’s going to be hard, but you won’t fail,” said Howard. Matsuno says that success in any field ultimately depends on being passionate about your work. “If you’re passionate, you will be successful.”

The lunch ended with a plea for more women to join their ranks, and to understand that we all struggle with balance, and that priorities can change. It’s important to be supportive of the choices women everywhere make to be able to achieve their own version of work/life balance.