022 Discussing Healthcare: A Look at Psychiatric Care in the U.S.

David Dastrup LMFT, LISAC

David Dastrup LMFT, LISAC

David Dastrup is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor.  He has cared for patients in many settings, including: clinics, emergency departments, and hospitals.  David has worked independently and with psychiatrists.  He has great insight into the state of psychiatric care in our country.

Psychiatric illness is very prevalent in our society.  The care of these patients takes great time, energy, and money. Our mental health system in the U.S. is in disarray and needs attention.  Unfortunately, psychiatric disorders are misunderstood by the public and mental health providers are taxed with large patient loads.  As a result, psychiatrists are forced to see high volumes of patients which decreases the amount of time each patient has to interact with the doctor.  Psychiatrists try to do their best by diagnosing and treating, but as a result we have more patients on psychiatric medication than ever before.  According to the CDC, antidepressant medications are the most frequently used class of medications by Americans age 18-44.  This is a growth of almost 400% over the past 20 years.

There are a variety of mental health providers from counselors to psychologists to psychiatrists.  The one thing that distinguishes a psychiatrist from a psychologist is the ability to write prescriptions.  Psychiatrists have graduated from medical school and have completed a residency training program in psychiatry.  They have the ability to prescribe medication.

Psychologists and counselors do not have the ability to write prescriptions.  They focus on the underlying psyche of a patient.  They spend a large amount of time with each patient having conversations in an attempt to find the underlying issues that are contributing to the mental health disturbance.

There are definitely differences in the approach between the mental health providers and there is not one way to treat all patients.  Psychiatric disorders are complex, often difficult to diagnose and definitely difficult to treat.

Psychiatric illness (anxiety and depression) has been questioned in the most recent killings of 3 people at Fort Hood followed by the suicide of the shooter.  Details are still not known by the public, but we have seen this same situation played out in varying degrees around the U.S. and the world in recent years.  The following names are those that are associated with psychiatric illness and have killed people without reason:

  • Jared Loughner – 1/8/2011, killed 6 and wounded 13. Diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia
  • James Eagan Holmes – 7/20/2012, killed 12, injured 58.  He was under the care of a psychiatrist and outwardly spoken about homicidal thoughts.
  • Adam Lanza – 12/14/2012, killed 27, injured 2.  He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is now considered part Autism.
  • Seung-Hui Cho – 4/16/2007, killed 32, injured 17.  He was diagnosed with severe Anxiety Disorder.
  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – 4/20/1999, killed 13, injured 21.  Eric Harris was labeled a clinical psychopath and Dylan Klebold was depressed.

There are more that could be added to this list, but these six people took the lives of 90 innocent individuals.  Will we ever find an answer to these horrific acts?  I think the answer is in how we diagnose and treat psychiatric illness.  There is no one answer to this difficult question, but I think we need to start by examining mental illness in the United States.


The Ebola virus has been in the news recently.  There is an outbreak in Africa that has claimed the lives of 86 people.  This virus is quite deadly, killing up to 90% or those who become infected.

Here is some more information about Ebola:

What is Ebola?

WHO West Africa Ebola outbreak info

Washington Post – The African Ebola outbreak that keeps getting worse 


About the Author

I am Joshua Lewis, MD, the creator of Discussing Healthcare, LLC and a board certified Emergency Physician who currently practices in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I hope you will gain meaningful insight into our healthcare system through the information provided by Discussing Healthcare. Thank you for your interest and I encourage you to contribute by calling, emailing, or leaving comments on the website.

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