Birgitta Alexius was a psychiatrist and researcher with broad qualifications. She was also an author and a politician.
Birgitta Alexius was born in 1939 in Stockholm. Both her parents were professors, her mother Carin Boalt of building performance analysis and her father Gunnar Boalt of sociology. The family lived in Stockholm but had a country cottage in Sörmland where the five children spent their summers.
Birgitta Alexius matriculated at Vasa Realskola in 1958. After matriculation, she started studying medicine at the Karolinska Institute where she took her licentiate in medicine in 1966. She started working as a physician at Mariakliniken in 1968, where she became familiar with medical addiction conditions. From 1970 until 1973, she worked as a psychiatrist at Långbro hospital and after that she worked at the psychiatric clinic at St Göran’s Hospital where – her first time there – she remained until 1986.
From her experiences of emergency psychiatry, that many patients returned many times with similar symptoms, Birgitta Alexius chose to devote her research to developing a model for improving the cooperation between emergency departments and the psychotherapeutically orientated outpatient care available in the community. This resulted in a doctoral thesis in 1983 in which she was able to demonstrate that if patients were systematically referred to adequate outpatient care resources, their conditions improved more often and fewer returned with the same syndrome. After this, she introduced the practice at the psychiatric emergency department at St Göran’s Hospital of referring discharged patients to an outpatients’ resource.
From 1986 until 1994, Birgitta Alexius was the consultant at the Danderyd psychiatric clinic, stationed at the infectious diseases clinic at the Roslagstull Hospital, as consultant for HIV-infected patients. During this period, she carried out several studies on this patient group. Among other things, she and a colleague published an investigation of which HIV patients were forcibly detained under the Infectious Diseases Act that was stricter in that respect than in most other countries. In this study she was able to prove that all those who were forcibly detained belonged to underprivileged groups, mainly addicts or refugees from countries with high prevalence of HIV.
Birgitta Alexius returned to St Göran’s psychiatric clinic in 1994 initially as the director of the emergency department. She remained there until her retirement in 2004. Notable for her career as a consultant and director was her outstanding capacity to organise and structure an enterprise thus creating a feeling of security for everyone in the staff group. She was also very knowledgeable, not least about medical legislation, which is an aspect that is continually to the fore in psychiatric emergency care. She was a role model and mentor for younger colleagues, in particular for her women colleagues. However, she was a great source of support for all groups of staff.
Birgitta Alexius married Erik Alexius, a civil engineer, in 1964. They had two daughters, Annika and Katarina. They separated in 1986 but were never divorced. Erik died in 2000.
Apart from being a physician, Birgitta Alexius was also very interested in research into her home district and genealogy. She was for many years engaged in her home district association in Vårdinge parish, where her country cottage was situated, and she also wrote for its magazine Vårdkasen. She wrote books about her mother, a maternal great aunt, the missionary Emma Löfström and also her maternal great-grandfather Anders Petter Löfström, who is said to have founded the town of Sundbyberg. After her retirement, she had more time to write. She also had more time to spend with her grandchildren, who were her great joy.
Birgitta Alexius was also active in local politics, as a member of the Stockholm Party. She was a deputy on the Stockholm social committee in 1981—1985 and a member of the municipal council in 1985. She was involved in among other things the reforms in legislation on prostitution.
Two years after her retirement, Birgitta Alexius fell ill with a serious blood disease, after never having taken sick leave for a single day in her working life. She was given the diagnosis myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS, a stem cell disease that influences the production of the blood, with a rather gloomy prognosis. She already had good insight into the immune system after having worked for five years with HIV-positive patients, and now she taught herself most of what there was to know about her illness. Thanks to this and an engaged and knowledgeable colleague, who did not hesitate to prescribe new medications from the cutting edge of research, she was able to survive far longer with good quality of life than was predicted in the original prognosis. She shared her experiences with other patients via a common forum, Marrowforums.
Birgitta Alexius died in 2015. Her funeral was held in Högalid Church and she was carried to her final resting place in the Memorial Garden at the Northern Cemetery in Solna.