My anti-psychiatry friends ask me why I work with doctors and therapists. Some accuse me of being a sell-out or a stooge for the pharm industry. They think that the way to change the system is to oppose it completely.

I don’t agree. I think the way to change the system is to work with it, not against it. If we can find ways to influence the thinking of those who are working with the greatest number of people, we will have the greatest effect. Communicating with them as a partner is the way to do that.

My daughter Kate and her friend Kelsey are in medical school. They have not decided yet what to specialize in, but if they choose to be General Practitioners they will be the front line in catching mental conditions. They are taking a class now about psychiatry and have been learning about suicide. Their assignment is to interview several people so they can get a first hand feel from those of us who have attempted or seriously thought about it.

This is where we reform the system. We share our thoughts with them so that they realize that our expertise is critical. We help educate them on what we think should be done. We change them to seeing it the way we see it. When we influence enough of them, we create real change in the system. By helping them we get a seat at the table and begin to define mental health care of the future.

This is why I spend so much time talking to therapist and doctor groups. As they begin to see us as a source of knowledge instead of against them, they invite us to the table. Disparaging them as the enemy means that we sit on the sidelines.

Would you like to join our efforts to influence the system? Share your thoughts about suicide in the comments and they might even end up in the curriculum at med school.

Here are their questions: What should a doctor ask to identify suicide risk while doing an assessment about another health issue? How should they respond when someone says they have or are contemplating it?