A Kindler, Gentler Psychiatrist

Posted on May 10, 2012 by

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Dr. Dilip Jeste is what we would call a high-achiever.

For starters, he’s published 11 books, which I suppose is child’s play, but over 600 articles in peer-reviewed journals. My guess is that he writes ‘over’ because by the time you reach 500 or so, you’ve really lost count.

In fact, for good measure, he’s in the Institute of Scientific Information list of the “world’s most cited authors”–“comprising less than 0.5% percent of all publishing researchers of the last two decades” (see his UCSD web page).

He’s won so many awards it would be tiring to list them, and his admission to the various selective Who’s Who groups starts off with things like “Marquis’ Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare,” “Who’s Who in Medicine,” and “Who’s Who in Bio Behavioral Sciences,” and ends with–and I’m not making this up, with (ready?) “Who’s Who in the World.

Jeste is a geriatric psychiatrist of Indian origin, specializing, as you’d expect of a geriatric psychiatrist, in mental health in the elderly.

He is also, in case his name still hasn’t rung a bell, head of the American Psychiatric Association, the first of Indian descent.

All that might have been a nice quick synopsis of who’s who in the world, had I not had a point, which I have not forgotten.

(picture by Ambro)

Dr. Jeste took command of the organization, around 36,000 strong, into an era of “more positive psychiatry.”Now how could that be bad?

Jeste told  Medscape Medical News:

We should not be satisfied merely with treating symptoms in patients with mental illness but also with improving their overall well-being. . .There are many studies that have shown that positive traits like optimism and social engagement are associated with a significant decrease in mortality, and I think as psychiatrists, we are in a good position to incorporate these into psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions.

Clearly from his references Jeste was boning up on his knowledge base about optimism and health, most likely my “‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’–And You Just Might Live a Longer and Better Life: A Positive Outlook’s Effect on Health,” for example, although a few other articles address the topic as well.

“Depression, optimism, and positive health practices in young adolescents” found a correlation between optimism and improvement in depression among adolescents, and “Effects of optimism on psychological and physical well-being: Theoretical overview and empirical update” revealed long-term health benefits, physical and mental, to positive thinking. And that’s just getting started–but, unlike Jeste, I don’t need to get to 600 articles before a point has been proved.

But what will this ‘positive psychiatry’ look like in the doctor’s office, and how will doctors who are not already accustomed to such an approach be coached to adapt? What does it mean, in practical terms?

In the meantime, nowadays there’s even optimism mood chart apps for depression and bipolar; see findingoptimism for one. And that’s a good thing.

Because positive psychiatry with a psychiatrist sounds like a great thing. But positive psychiatry where you don’t have to wait for the next appointment, and sit in a cramped waiting room with 6 other people–all potentially booked for your time slot–might be even better.

We’ll just have to wait and see what Dr. Jeste holds in store for the field on the ‘kinder, gentler’ front. Any which way, I’m sure he’ll publish a score more articles on the endeavor.

 See

Ingredients of Successful Aging Exist Now, Says APA President-Elect  (at http://www.psychnews.org/update/report1_AM2.html)

More News From APA’s 2012 Annual Meeting (at http://alert.psychiatricnews.org/2012/05/more-news-from-apas-2012-annual-meeting.html)

Scheier MF, Carver CS. Effects of optimism of psychological and physical well-being: Theoretical overview and empirical update. Cognitive Therapy and Research 1992; 16(2):201-228.

Yarcheski TJ, Mahon NE, Yarcheski A.Depression, optimism, and positive health practices in young adolescents. Psychological Reports 2004; 95(3, Part1):932–934.