The Psychiatrists of Phoenix Street
Michael Segal has been practicing psychiatry in Israel for the past several decades, and his work has introduced him to a broad collection of individuals with unique stories to tell. This collection is particularly significant because of its setting. Born in Romania just after WWII, Dr. Segal remembers noting the sorrow of emotionally broken war widows forlornly wandering his childhood neighborhood. After moving to Israel in the 1980s, he treated soldiers and Soviet refugees, as well as Jewish Holocaust survivors, many, many of whom suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders due to their horrific experiences. He himself endured bombing raids and chemical weapon threats while working at his hospital.
Dr. Segal encapsulates this time through the stories of his individual patients for example, one of his patients was one of Josef Mengele’s twins from Auschwitz concentration camp. Several were soldiers or police who suffered from being surrounded by death and dismemberment on all sides when they responded to bombings. Although the author alleviates these stories with a few notes of humor there was a Russian soldier who, due to his unfamiliarity with Hebrew and some other misunderstandings, almost missed his own wedding; another man needed help overcoming his anxiety before his own upcoming wedding.
Overall, these riveting stories are very heavy and emotionally draining, although they are certainly easy to read. Readers will want time to reflect and process each one; Dr. Segal valiantly tries to keep his own emotions from overcoming him as he absorbs all this pain from his patients, but, at one point, his despair breaks through after he hears some terrible news: I don’t know anymore who is most at risk for suicide: anesthesiologists, dentists, or us, psychiatrists. Anyway, this informal classification, regardless of the position, is not too optimistic. Psychiatrists straddle the line between body and mind as medical doctors, they work to restore health both physically and mentally by exploring the trauma and disease of the subconscious. In these stories, Dr. Segal walks the halls of the psychiatric ward and tries to understand why people are hurting like they are, so he can help them but it is a gargantuan, perhaps impossible, task.
The stories are well-written and intelligent, with full command of the English language; some quirks of usage and punctuation mark them as foreign, but to excellent effect, reinforcing the sense of uniqueness of this collection they are stories that are, mercifully, outside the experience of most Americans. Readers will be horrified while they are engrossed with this very personal side of history; ideally, they will also be moved with compassion toward a greater understanding of those struggling with mental illnesses.
|Page Count||209 pages|
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