Q&A: Lisa Di Venuta

EHRP journalist Lisa Di Venuta answers questions about her personal essay You Calling Me Crazy? The Perils of Misdiagnosis.

Q: What do you think would be a better approach to accurately diagnosing mental and behavioral disorders? Should there be a minimum number of psychiatric appointments before medication is prescribed? Should regular therapy be required alongside medication?

A: I don’t believe there is one-size fits all approach. I think the best approach is to train doctors and social workers in a way that lets them see the magnitude of ways mental health can manifest or the many things that can be mistaken for mental illness. From my experience, many doctors and social workers are too quick to rely on the DSM-5 or the stereotypical manifestations of mental illness. I think a minimum number of psychiatric appointments before prescribing medication would be helpful, however there are always cases where medication is vital to a patient’s immediate mental health. I believe that whenever a patient is treated with psych meds, talk therapy should be mandatory.

Q: Part of our mission is providing young journalists with work opportunities and mentorship in a tough field that’s only getting tougher. What challenges are you facing as you step into the world of journalism? How do you think your experience would be different if you had received an accurate diagnosis to begin with or simply never sought treatment at all?

A: I am facing the challenge of uncertainty, like many others in my field. I am pursuing a graduate degree in hopes that it will give me more opportunity, however I can never be sure of this—I may end up with just more debt. I would love to have a steady job working for a magazine or newspaper, but those are harder and harder to secure. However, I think my experience has actually helped me in the long run. I have not had the typical college experience, meaning I have more to share with the world. Being institutionalized and veering off the normal track of life led me to meet so many different kinds of people I would never have met otherwise. I now have a passion for helping those kinds of people, the ones with pain and suffering, who are slipping through the cracks in a society that doesn’t stop moving. I want to write more articles and memoirs about my experiences because sharing painful memories can help others. Just days after my story was posted, I was contacted about someone close to me who just received his doctorate and was feeling depressed and suicidal. My story encouraged him to speak up and hopefully get help. That is one of the most valuable things I can imagine doing.

Q: What lesson has stuck with you most from your misdiagnosis? How has it changed your perspective?

A: Being carelessly diagnosed means I will never again fully trust a medical professional. I will have to learn as much about my mind and body as possible. Again, I choose to look at this as an advantage. I would like to share with every other young adult struggling to find their place in the world—don’t trust what people in power tell you. Learn for yourself, and decide if they are right. Knowledge can be free if you know where to look.


Joel Kendrick is the Assistant Editor for EHRP. Follow On Twitter @JoelKendrick.