Psychiatry and TIME’S People of the Year


TIME’s People of the Year have closer ties to mental health than you think.




In a column December 14, “Psychiatrists and Other People of the Year,”1 I mentioned many of the awards being given out for people doing extraordinary things in 2021, but, as usual, nary a one in psychiatry. Though I decried that omission, and recommended Psychiatrist(s) of the Year be found, maybe I was missing something even more important for psychiatry.

This epiphany for me occurred as I read the annual TIME issue of Person of the Year.2 As I read through all 4 major categories, it struck me that psychiatry was indeed playing a major role, as if we were some sort of psychological “power behind the throne.”

Perhaps the clearest example was for the TIME Athlete of the Year, Simone Biles.3 The story of the record-shattering Olympian has been well told, including that she suddenly dropped out of some of the events last summer for mental health reasons. She has portrayed her psychotherapy as being of great help in the past and after the games. Interestingly, she thought she was doing well enough to stop the therapy for months before this Olympics. With help from the on-site mental health experts, she was able to come back and participate in the last gymnastic event, balance-beam.

I didn’t know of the TIME Entertainer of the Year, Olivia Rodrigo, a rising pop singer-songwriter.4 She commonly talks about her mental health. The article mentions that her psychotherapist listened recently to her song “Brutal,” described as a teen tantrum anthem.

The cover story Person of the Year is Elon Musk. He has publicly talked about having Asperger’s Syndrome and seems to appreciate how that has given him certain great strengths and weaknesses.

The last category did not clearly convey something about psychiatry. It was the TIME Heroes of the Year, 4 of the scientists who led to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.5 Then, again, being professionals in medicine and health care, they are certainly our relatives.

Being so out front and positive about therapy and mental diversity will be helpful in reducing the stigma about psychiatry and improving the mental well-being of uncountable people, even more important in this pandemic time of increased mental distress and physician burnout.

Award yourselves!

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.


1. Moffic HS. Psychiatrists and other people of the year. Psychiatric Times. December 14, 2021.

2. Ball M, Kluger J, de la Garza A. 2021 person of the year: Elon Musk. TIME. Updated December 13, 2021. Accessed December 21, 2021.

3. Park A, Gregory S. 2021 athlete of the year: Simone Biles. TIME. December 9, 2021. Accessed December 21, 2021.

4. Feldman L. 2021 entertainer of the year: Olivia Rodrigo. TIME. December 9, 2021. Accessed December 21, 2021.

5. Park A, Ducharme J. 2021 heroes of the year: the miracle workers. TIME. December 13, 2021. Accessed December 21, 2021.

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