Why should you become an adolescent psychiatrist?

In the board of Division of Psychiatry we discussed today about recruitment. How could we improve recruitment of young doctors to psychiatry? I of course specify: to adolescent psychiatry. Myself I decided quite an early phase of my career that psychiatry will be my choice. I had really been thinking about orthopedics… not that I would have any talent in that direction, but perhaps it was out of admiration towards a family friend, a distinguished orthopaedist. However, already during the first season in medical school if realized that is not my way. What a crisis. I thought about the problem intensively a whole night in medical students’ club until I saw the light: psychiatry! Nobody took me seriously…

However, seriously, what could be more interesting than human mind with all its complexities? Moreover, mental health has a major role in well-being across developmental phases and domains of life.

Somewhat later I was introduced to a university journal after being granted a scholarship for my PhD work. I had already gained my first experiences in clinical psychiatry. The journalist asked about my career plans. I kind of saw the light again: adolescent psychiatry. Because the young people have so much to win.

Many doubted our chances to success when we opened the adolescent forensic unit in 2003. Many doubted our reason, assuming that working with young people with “challenging behaviours” is both hopeless, burdening and dangerous. But those kids who are most severely ill need us most. I find that highly motivating.

The first years of the adolescent forensic service were indeed challenging. (This work is always challenging.) Once we had some difficult situation and were almost overwhelmed. It happened to be exactly when professor Theo Doreleijers, the founder and honorary president of the EFCAP (www.efcap.org) was visiting us, and we discussed our work with him in case consultation meeting. We told him about our serious, difficult crisis and uncertainty facing it. And he – laughed heartily and said: “This is what I like about working with adolescents! They are never boring!”

Right he had. I have ever since cherished this viewpoint and hope to pass it to my trainees and staff.

With my specialist trainees we had an inspiring spring term studying eating disorders. Such a lovely and lively group we had (again) this season; actually I feel that the trainees are always lively and active, perhaps they take after the young people with whom we work. I am privileged to be the leader of this seminar: I always learn most myself…

Now the specialist training has a summer break. So has ballet school. A highlight of my spring was the ballet school show! It was really a dream come true: I had the opportunity to be one of those who dance on pointé shoes wearing a white tutu… I and some other ladies were upset of enthusiasm when we first learned that the white tutus will be worn. I never thought I could have this experience. But one can always learn more.