My interest in psychiatry
15 June, 2021
Ishbel Kempton is a year 12 student currently preparing for her A-Levels. She is determined to pursue a career in psychiatry and here reflects on where her interest stems from, her experiences so and plans for the future.
I have always been interested in trying to understand why people say what they say and do what they do. Studying psychology at GCSE and now as an A-Level has helped me to understand (a little bit!) how the brain works and how physical changes can affect our mental process. I was keen to investigate some aspects a bit more so I have focussed my EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) on "whether medication is the best treatment for depression". I have really enjoyed researching this topic as well as being moved by the stories of people who are affected by depression and understanding a bit more about the social aspects of mental illness as well as the biological aspects. As part of my research, I have spoken to psychiatrists and psychologists about their experiences and challenges. This has made me realise that I would love to be a part of the psychiatry profession so that I can have the chance to make a positive difference to people with mental health disorders.
Psychiatry or psychology
As well as my interest in psychology I'm also interested in the biological and chemical mechanisms that can lead to mental health problems. In order to treat mental and emotional disorders, I think that you need to understand a wide range of things that might be affecting the patient (social, genetic, other illnesses) and then be able to choose the right treatment from a range of possibilities, which as well as psychotherapy etc includes medicines. I would really like to be able to decide on which treatment is best for a patient from all these options rather than being limited to psychological treatments.
I realise that there are many challenges ahead of me if I pursue my dream of being a psychiatrist, which all seem quite daunting at the moment – UCAT (the University Clinical Aptitude Test, which tests the mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours of potential medical students), getting into medical school and gaining valuable work experience at this difficult time.
I think that there are a lot of people at my stage who are also feeling similar pressures but I am optimistic that I will overcome these hurdles. So far I have tried to get more of an understanding of the role of a psychiatrist by chatting to doctors and medical students who have already succeeded, which has been really helpful and also very inspiring. I have joined "Medsoc" at school which has given me a good idea of how to apply to medical schools and I have been involved in virtual "Medic mentor" sessions run by hospital staff which give an idea of what it’s like to be a doctor, which is a reasonable substitute for work experience (as of course it is impossible to do work experience in hospitals during the pandemic). I’ve also found it helpful to speak to family and friends for support in this journey, for both encouragement and to bounce ideas off. Finally, the most important factor is probably just going to be hard work!
Experience and reflection
I have volunteered at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic and I immediately loved the atmosphere of everyone working together to achieve the common aim of beating COVID-19. I was in awe of the vaccinators and other volunteers of all ages who spend so much of their spare time helping out as well as the many people getting vaccinated - all keen to make the world safe once again. From that experience I know I want to be part of a bigger team in the medical field. I am also a pastoral prefect at my school and I have really enjoyed the chance to talk to younger pupils who are feeling stressed for lots of different reasons and try to find a way for them to feel more relaxed and positive.
Plans for the future
In the near future I hope to take a gap year to travel with my best friend. The destination is yet to be decided, but South America would be pretty cool. During lockdown I’ve discovered that I really enjoy running and have just completed my first half marathon raising money for Mind, so I hope to continue running and perhaps do a marathon in a few years’ time. And of course I hope to be a psychiatrist!