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It was Christmas time and so, to spruce things up on an otherwise dreary psychiatry ward, a tree was put up! Imagine everyone’s shock and surprise when twenty year old Tina started sobbing and then grabbed one of the hanging Christmas ornaments, broke it, and held the jagged edge to her wrist. “Dr. Guterson, come quick, we have a crisis!” I ran to the scene and there was Tina in front of the Christmas tree. She demanded that everyone stay clear or she would surely cut herself deeply: “I’m gonna end my life, right now, just watch me”, she cried out. The scene was intense and her screams infected the other psychiatric patients whom I could hear weeping in the distance. Twenty staff members were there, trying to talk her down, but to no avail. So they turned to me and said, “Dr. Guterson, you’re in charge, do something!” Ladies and gentlemen… there I was, a rookie psychiatrist, recently out of my residency. I had no idea what to say or do. My thoughts quickly jumped through my education: organic chemistry, anatomy, peering into a microscope, brain MRI’s, neurons and serotonin and frontal lobe and cognition. I put this all together and blurted out two essential questions: “Tina, what is your favorite Christmas song? Maybe we can sing it together?” “But, Dr. Guterson, look at you. You’re Jewish. What do you know about Christmas music?” “Try me.” ”Ok, ‘Silver Bells’” “One of my favorites, Tina. Let’s go for it. But first, please hand me that thing in your hand.” Disarmed, Tina’s spirit shifted and the two of us launched into: “Silver bells, silver bells; It’s Christmas time in the city!” Soon the entire ward, workers and patients, joined in. The celebration escalated as we all chimed together: “Ring a ling; hear them ring; Soon it will be Christmas Day!” Not exactly Freudian psychoanalysis but, at least for a day, disaster on the psych ward was averted.

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1 Comment

Natalie Duran
Natalie Duran
Jul 08, 2023

Except for the people you ignore when they tell you they are being abused by your staff........ what about those people?

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