Actor and comedian Stephen Fry has said psychiatry “saved his life at its lowest moment” as he backed a campaign to attract more people to the profession.
It comes amid a “mental health emergency” in England, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which said almost 1.4 million people are waiting for treatment.
The college has launched the #ChoosePsychiatry campaign for the seventh consecutive year in a bid to highlight the field to junior doctors choosing their speciality.
Professor Subodh Dave, dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said England needs “psychiatrists now more than ever”.
Fry, an honorary fellow of the college, has bipolar disorder and has been open about his struggles with mental illness.
He has also been president of the charity Mind since 2011.
Fry said: “Young people preparing for medical careers are realising more and more that the most exciting frontier in medicine is the human mind.
“But its study is more than just an intellectual challenge, it is a pathway to a life in psychiatry – the specialism that fights on the front line in our war against mental illness.”
He added that psychiatry is “vital and rewarding work”.
“I’ve encountered many doctors who have regretted, later in their careers, that they did not choose psychiatry, but I have never met one who regretted that they did.
“Because despite what you might think or have heard, psychiatry daily solves problems, saves lives, helps, and heals.
“I know I can say with absolute truth that psychiatry saved my life at its lowest moment. I don’t believe I would be here today if it were not for the psychiatrist who rescued me.
“The smartest and most caring minds are needed in this field and – happily – the trend towards choosing psychiatry as a speciality has lately been upward, upward, upward.”
Dr Lade Smith, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We are currently facing a mental health emergency, with almost 1.4 million people in England waiting for mental health treatments, and 1.35 million people out of work due to their mental illness, including depression.
“Demand for our services is high, and the brilliant work our psychiatrists deliver every day affects the lives of thousands. By joining the profession, you too can be part of this remarkable metamorphosis, supporting people’s transformation from illness to health.”
Writer Alastair Campbell is also backing the campaign, which will run for six weeks until December 1.
He said: “My mental health has definitely improved in recent years and much of that is down to the psychiatrist I saw over a number of years, David Sturgeon.
“It took time and patience on both our parts, but I am in little doubt that I could not have made the progress I have made without him.
“He helped me to see far more clearly issues that had been causing me psychological problems for years, and he was and remains someone I can always turn to when depression or anxiety strike. Whatever else is going on he always has genuine concern for me and my family.
“I know there are countless people like me who have benefited from his professionalism and his wisdom, and we need more people like him in our surgeries and hospitals. Whenever I hear of a medical student choosing psychiatry, I feel happy knowing that everyone who does choose psychiatry has the chance to make this a better world.”