The Whole Dr. Ducker

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Since 2010 Dr. Ducker has been the Lead Physician in the primary care service at Inland Hospital, Lead Physician for the system-wide Medical Group, Senior Physician Executive for the Medical Group and is currently the Co-President of the Medical Group. He remains a practicing physician at Inland one day a week.
Dr. Ducker has had two rounds of depression in addition to PTSD stemming from a heart attack in 2019. Given the way society stigmatizes mental health concerns, this is a courageous disclosure. One of the biggest concerns about being open regarding our struggles with the mind is the behavioral component. Will our every move be scrutinized? Will our word not be regarded as credible? And perhaps most threatening of all, will we be seen as defective? Behavior, after all, feels very personal, a lot like who we are.
This is not something we typically confuse with the physical: when someone has a skin problem, it’s easy to see that as being something wrong with that person’s skin. However, when there is a mental health condition, it can be very easy to see that as being something wrong with that person. But here’s the thing…
Everyone has behaviors
You don’t have to have a diagnosed mental health condition to be impulsive, unreliable, scattered, unstable, moody, extreme, irrational, irritable, manipulative, overwhelmed, exuberant, underperforming or demonstrating any other behavior that might move someone not to trust you or like you or want to be around you. We all have behaviors and they all tell a story. Sometimes the story is that there is a mental health condition that is flaring up. Sometimes the story is that someone is having a very hard day or didn’t get enough sleep or maybe is just a self-involved jerk. In the end, it comes down to accountability and performance:
  1. We all are accountable for our behaviors, no matter where they come from.
  2. Our performance demonstrates our ability whether there is a mental health condition at play or not.*
The need to re-think how we think of the mind
Counter to whatever we may believe about people with mental health concerns, it’s clear from Dr. Ducker’s bio that he functions at a high level, both as a practicing physician and a Northern Light senior leader. (To be sure not all people with a mental health condition are able to function well, but the same is true for some who suffer from physical conditions.) When you read the more detailed account of Dr. Ducker’s experiences  a few more things about the mind and body will become clear:
  • Being a person (just like all of us), Dr. Ducker has a heart subject to stressors and biological changes and a mind subject to stressors and biological changes. What we can take from this is that it’s as normal to have a mental health condition as it is normal to have a physical health condition. It doesn’t mean you are less a person, a person who can’t be taken seriously or one who is incompetent. In fact, at any given time one in five people – and these are our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, service providers and everyone in the world – has an active mental health concern whether we know it or not. One in four of us will have a mental health crisis at some point in our lives.
  • There is effective treatment for the mind and body, both of which follow the medical model of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The sameness of the approach points to the underlying unification: how we reach the body is how we reach the mind; how we reach the mind is how we reach the body. Not only are they intertwined but that entwinement means that we can’t leave one half of who we are behind and still be a whole person.  
Bridging the divide between mind and body
In order to de-stigmatize mental health, it is going to take people being willing to think differently and openly. For those who have a mental health condition, the first shift is an internal one. As Dr. Ducker says, “If we are ashamed and judge ourselves then we are perpetuating the biases, judgments and discriminations and allowing it to continue happening to others.” For someone who doesn’t have a mental health condition (or doesn’t yet given how increasingly common depression and anxiety are), but who is nonetheless a person with their own set of vulnerabilities, it means not putting people with a mental health condition in a box and making them different than yourself.
It’s not going to be easy. Nor is it easy to open yourself up, so thank you Dr. Ducker for being willing to come forward and help society move past the idea that having a mental health condition is shameful and too dangerous to talk about. What’s actually shameful and dangerous is how the stigma we’ve manufactured keeps people from getting treatment, keeps people from being well, keeps people from loving themselves, keeps people from being happy, keeps people from functioning well, keeps people from getting the support and healing compassion of others when they are unwell and keeps people from contributing all they would be able to if they had the right support.
In the end, it keeps people from being whole. Which is really scary because where are we then? Are we ready to stand alongside each other?
Standing alongside
  • Hear more about a few of our co-worker’s lived experience with mental health concerns which Dr. Ducker participated in on Your Mind Matters, a recent panel discussion hosted by EAP and Acadia Hospital’s Healthy Life Resources.
  • Count me in. I have bipolar.
*Of course, we could be underperforming – not a true measure of our ability -- which only makes it more important to get treatment since treatment for both physical and mental health concerns can significantly improve our functionality, performance and experience of life. It would be a waste of oneself not to, yet stigma stops many people from doing just that.
Sources: CDC, National Alliance for Mental Health, and What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing
Still standing! Hope you are, too.