One of the major problems here is a severe shortage of psychiatrists, the physicians who specialize in mental disorders [“What’s troubling mental health,” Opinion, Aug. 17]. And to those of us in primary care medicine and, indeed, to doctors in general, there is no mystery to the shortage. Psychiatrists are in short supply because the specialty pays much less, for amount and difficulty of the work, than do other medical fields.
Many would argue that doctors in all fields are very well-compensated. This is true but is not very relevant to the choices facing medical students when they think about their future specialties. Medical students are good people, more altruistic than most, but easier work for more money is more attractive to almost all of them.
Sometimes difficult problems have complex causes, sometimes not. The problem here is not prestige or medical school mentors or a shortage of residency positions. Quite simply, the problems are money and working conditions. Unless these are addressed, the shortage will persist and certainly could even worsen.
John Horstkamp, M.D., Pullman