Eastern Montana’s only psychiatrist is grappling with highest suicide rate in the country

Emily Rappleye (Twitter | Google+) – Friday, August 16th, 2019 Print  | Email

Joan Dickson, MD, is the only psychiatrist within a 400-plus-mile radius that covers eastern Montana and part of North Dakota, reports Bloomberg.

She is the only psychiatrist in eastern Montana, while the state has the highest suicide rate in the U.S.  In a 2017 survey, nearly 1 in 6 seventh and eighth graders in Montana reported attempting to commit suicide in the previous 12 months, according to Bloomberg.

Dr. Dickson opened a mental health unit at Glendive (Mont.) Medical Center in 2002, but overwhelmed by patients and burning out, she resigned just four years later. At the time, she was responding to two emergency calls per night, according to the report.

After a year off, Dr. Dickson reopened a dual-specialty private practice, in which she works as a family practitioner and psychiatrist. She is careful now to protect her own time.

However, last year, when her sister was diagnosed with leukemia, she had to choose between taking care of her in Colorado and taking care of “the mental health of a 48,000-square-mile swath of the rural West,” Bloomberg‘s Monte Reel writes.

Read the full profile of Dr. Dickson and Montana’s mental health provider shortage here.

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