Hi ! I'm a second year Physician Assistant student at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Currently in my Clinical Year and loving it. I've rotated in Psychiatry, Ob/Gyn, Pediatrics, General Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, and now in Family Medicine. You can follow me on instagram under : melissa_gutierrez and facebook under :

When Mind is Not Over Matter – Increasing Mental Illness Awareness


Not every disability is visible, not every illness can be diagnosed with labs and diagnostic test.Some illnesses require the skill of listening and understanding behavior . Psychiatry is the field in which you take care of the body and mind.

The Stigma

The stigma behind mental illness is something that affects us worldwide. Imagine if patients got blamed for having cancer or heart failure? Mental illness is real and it affects  a lot of individuals.  We have society thinking that mental illness is something  that’s  “ all in your head.” That’s the stigma, we live in a world where if you are in a cast everyone will rush over to sign it , but if you would tell people your bipolar , suffering from depression they look at you like you’re an outcast.  Like if our brain isn’t an organ that can suffer from neurotransmitter malfunction.

I’m a second year physician Assistant Student at the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg , Texas. I’m in my clinical year, and I began my rotations with Psychiatry. I had the pleasure to rotate with Dr. Igoa at Doctors Hospital At Renaissance Behavioral Center. This rotation opened my eyes and made me fall in love with the field . Whether an illness affects your heart, muscles, bones or brain it’s an illness and it’s very real.  I remember my first day in the rotation rounding in Inpatient hospital . I was exposed to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, addiction etc. At that moment it hit me , There’s people that I probably pass everyday in the hallway, street, grocery store who are suffering from a mental illness .

Interviewing my first patient I had my “ AHA moment” , and any medical provider can tell you these moments are precious.  My first patient was suffering from withdrawals, the patient was coming in to get help.  It hit me , here’s this patient going through physical and mental symptoms , the courage he must have had to come in and say “ Hey I can’t do this alone.”  This patient told me he was homeless, that he had children, why his addiction began and his story went on and on.  At that moment I realized the gift we have as providers.  This man didn’t even know me  but he trusted me.  I had my white coat on and made sure to tell him Dr. Igoa , his staff and I were all here to help , that’s all it took for this man to trust me.

Being in this inpatient facility, I realized that mental illness is a field that needs so much insight and help.  Often I hear medical students/ PA students themselves not respect this field, often they get the adrenaline rush from being in an emergency room and Operating room.  For me , Dr. Igoa taught me how important it is to get these patients mentally stable. Many of the patients I interviewed had families, jobs, and other illnesses, If their mind is not healthy how will they be able to fulfill all their duties and responsibilities.

Imagine having to get up every morning dress your children ,make them food, get ready for work and have a mental illness?  It’s honestly something that goes on very often, and we as providers have to play an active role in making sure our patients are healthy in body and mind.

I can speak from experience, I lost my Godfather as a Senior In high school. I went through depression and anger issues myself, only my parents and my boyfriend got to experience this. At that moment I didn’t understand why couldn’t I just get up and get through my day like a normal person. My parents and boyfriend did their best everyday to be there for me but I would cry at random moments , get angry at anyone or anything. At this moment I didn’t realize that I was going through grief and wasn’t coping with it well.  This lasted about 1 year and a half.  I could be on a date with my fiancé and out of nowhere I would just cry and have to talk about it.  Depression hits you hard , it affects your everyday life, you lose the pleasure of doing things that you once loved.  I realize now that often patients are scared to admit they are having these feelings because its been known that we as a society don’t respect these sort of illnesses.

As a future provider whether I end up working in psychiatry or any other field I will make sure to always assess my patient’s mental well being .  When you take the time to get to know your patients you can tell when something isn’t right, if they are feeling down or up. Sometimes it’s just about asking the right questions- How are you doing today ? How’s work? How’s the family?

It’s our responsibility to speak up for our patients when they can’t , to give them the strength and skills to surpass difficult challenges.  Psychiatric illnesses is something we often overlook as providers,  let’s educate ourselves and our communities that these illnesses do exist and do affect us each and everyday. `