Public psychiatry’s mission: Providing mental health care to those who need it the most

While psychiatry often involves listening to patients—assessing mental and physical aspects of psychological problems—that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Rachel Talley portrait.
Rachel Talley, clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

One innovative aspect of the field is public psychiatry, also known as community psychiatry. The field involves caring for patients with serious mental illness in publicly funded, community mental health settings. Public psychiatry addresses social determinants of health, such as income and housing security, and often involves meeting patients where they are, like their own home, to support recovery.

Rachel Talley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine, originally planned to pursue a career in public policy. Now, she leads Penn’s Community Psychiatry fellowship program at Penn.

“Social justice has always been important to me … but it wasn’t until college that I had my first medical experience which put me on the path to public psychiatry,” says Talley. At Harvard, Talley was “introduced to the idea of innovative care for people with limited resources, and the different approaches for caring for those who are most vulnerable. After college, I pursued my interest in policy through internships in D.C.—including at the National Council for Behavioral Health, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and the White House. All those experiences empowered me to not only go to medical school, but to find ways to advocate for those who are vulnerable.”

Read more at Penn Medicine News.