A Psych Ward Doctor On Treating Patients On The Brink Of Suicide

“They’re playing with one of the big existential issues for all of us, which is death,” says Dr. Stuart Beck of Mass General.

On a recent Monday, clinical staff at Massachusetts General Hospital had gathered with a patient as she prepared for discharge from the psychiatric ward. After nearly everyone had said their goodbyes, the patient turned to Dr. Stuart Beck, the soft-spoken psychiatrist who runs the ward.

“Hey you, Dr. Beck,” the patient blurted out. “You got anything to tell me?”

The Boston hospital has 1,011 beds, only 24 of which are reserved for the psychiatric ward. Vacancies on the ward are rapidly filled, and Beck and his staff are always busy, moving from one bed to the next as they make decisions about medications, treatment plans and whether it’s safe enough to let a particular patient go. Still, Beck tries to build a connection with his patients and uncover the deeper issues that brought them to his ward.  more

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