The chemical question

From The Griffith Review, 3 May 2021:

‘IT’S MY HORMONES, doc. It’s my hormones, and no one’s listened to that.’

It was the late 1980s, in what was once Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital in inner-city Melbourne. A brash young registrar doing her training in psychiatry had arrived at her first hospital placement, full of ideas and enthusiasm. Perhaps to put a bit of scuff on that bright ambition, she was assigned to look after the female patients in the ‘back ward’.

Some of the women in that ward had been there for decades, institutionalised more or less indefinitely because existing treatments could not relieve the psychosis, hallucinations and schizophrenic symptoms that warped their reality.

So Jayashri Kulkarni listened. She listened as the women told her of the psychologically ordinary lives they had led until their children were born or they went through menopause. Psychiatry couldn’t tell them what happened, but those women knew. They knew instinctively that the healthy ebb and flow of hormones that women’s minds and bodies sway to throughout life had been disturbed for them, and had never recovered their rhythm. They knew that those key life events of birth and menopause had been the trigger for that disturbance. Read more.

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