My Patients Need Me. Can I Quit?

Can I put family above work?

I've worked in the mental-health field for more than a decade. I have prided myself on pursuing a vocation that centers on helping others. In the context of the pandemic and its ongoing traumatic fallout, however, I have found myself pulling away from the world and instead turning my focus inward to myself and my family.

I would like to take a leave from my profession and become a stay-at-home parent. I am fortunate to be in a position to do so. I feel immense guilt, however, about shifting to a life that will be turned inward rather than outward. This feels particularly egregious after this year, in which stress and mental illness are raging, bigotry is more salient than ever and so many are suffering from poverty.

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Furthermore, the mental illness in which I specialize has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and there is a dearth of providers who treat it. I have typically felt judgmental of and saddened by people who just live their lives focused on themselves and their own families, but now I feel a strong pull to do just that.

During particularly turbulent periods like this in the world, is it ever OK to stick my head in the sand? Is it ethical to leave a helping profession at a time when people need that help most if I do so out of choice, not necessity?

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