Psychiatry means “a healing of the soul” and get its origins from the Greek word psykhe, meaning “mind,” and iatreia, meaning “healing, care.”
Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that specialises in the complex interactions between the functioning of the brain, the physical body, emotions and the mind.
Psychiatrists are specialised medical doctors who treat illnesses of the mind. They may do this using medication but also by using other treatments such as psychotherapy and lifestyle change.
When psychiatry was still in its infancy, like many branches of medicine, treatments were limited and people were admitted for long periods of time to facilities for people with mental illness. With the advent of new medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics, people with severe mental illness had a new hope of treatment that would allow them to resume their roles as spouse, parent, breadwinner.
Psychiatry however is not just about medication and has shifted to a more holistic approach, using medication as needed but also looking at the person as a whole and how their beliefs and culture affect their thoughts and actions. This growing field is ever increasing in understanding from how our very genes, cellular structure and hormones influence our mental health and in turn how our mental health affects these components of our physical bodies.
Psychiatry no longer focuses on only reducing symptoms of mental illness, but rather looks to improve functioning and the person’s sense of well being.