Posted by:6 June, 2014
Title: Public mental health: global perspectives
Edited by: Lee Knifton and Neil Quinn
Publisher: McGraw Hill, Oxford University Press
What was it like?
This book is “thorough”. From the impressive list of references to the attention to detail within the chapters it reads as though no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of rational understanding of the topic. It’s as much a manifesto for change as anything else and while there is real value in that, indeed such books are vital to our society’s development, it felt “dry” to read. That’s not a criticism – just a fact. It’s a book largely written by academics and that’s exactly how it reads – like a book written by academics.
What were the highlights?
However, dry though it can appear, the book is a real Alladin’s cave of wisdom, of innovation and thought provoking policy suggestions. Rusch and Corrigan’s short chapter on stigma, including “self stigma” described perfectly a problem, I’ve found difficult to quantify in the past while Mary O’Hagan’s chapter on Recovery and wellbeing was both informative and refreshing. The mini toolkits accompanying these and other chapters are helpful tools both for clarifying thinking and also, where applicable, providing action points for practice at personal, local and national/international (Macro, Meso, Micro) levels.
Strengths & weaknesses:
There is, of course value in expressing truth for its own sake but there were aspects of this book that had the cynic in me wondering what could be done to change the situation. Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson are undoubtedly correct in linking mental illness and distress to inequality. Income inequality has been linked to high levels of mental distress and substance related problems since the original Black Report. But it’s difficult to see how governments can be persuaded to address the issue meaningfully given the political pressures they face to keep taxes low and electoral support high. In fairness the authors do offer a few suggestions of their own but my inner cynic remains unconvinced.
Who should read it?
Overall though, I liked this book. I found it informative and an extremely useful reference. It’s like a collection of short primers that I expect to return to many times in the future. I have no doubt that this would be a useful addition to any serious student’s library, not least because the relatively short chapters are so succinct in overviewing the topics they cover. Certainly my copy isn’t just going to sit on the shelf and gather dust. I might need to make sure I’ve got plenty of peace and quiet before I next open it though.
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