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Essentials of Physical Health in Psychiatry

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Title: Essentials of Physical Health in Psychiatry

Editors: Irene Cormac and David Gray

Publisher: The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012

Reviewer: Martyn Tee, independent trainer for Health & Social Care / custody nurse for  G4S Forensic & Medical Services Ltd

What was it like?

This books aims to cover the essential physical health topics that are most relevant to those caring for people with mental disorders and disabilities. It is divided into four sections, which concentrate on the areas of improving physical health, with section two divided by medical specialty, section three divided by psychiatric specialty and section four devoted to emergencies and injuries. Each chapter deals with a specific aspect. The chapters are approximately 15 pages long making them easily readable. For a specialty that can tend to marginalize physical health, this is a concise reference with some good pointers towards more detailed information where appropriate. Section two is particularly helpful in this regard. The vast majority of contributors to this book are medical doctors and as a consequence the book may be of more interest to medical students and doctors working within the area of mental health, with some of the language being possibly less accessible to other members of the multidisciplinary team.

What were the highlights? 

The book highlights the disadvantages to physical health faced by those suffering long term mental disorders. It stresses premature death and “diagnostic overshadowing” (the tendency to attribute physical symptoms to mental health problems), which often leaves psychiatric patients marginalised by both primary and secondary medical care.  

Strengths & weaknesses:

The layout makes this an easy to read reference, with summary boxes clearly colour coded for those in a hurry. Of particular use are the learning points at the end of each chapter. Perhaps some of the figures are more for esthetics than being of real relevant help to the reader. For example three photographs showing slides of fatty liver and liver cirrhosis are unlikely to be of assistance to those in mental health trying to recognize the broader symptoms of liver disease. Perhaps it would have been more helpful to include photographs of more general signs, such as a patient with jaundice or ascites.

Who should read it?

As previously mentioned this book will be of most use to the medical profession. However, section one does have interesting suggestions about brief interventions to improve physical health, which nurses in mental health and general practice settings should find useful.

Essentials of Physical Health in Psychiatry

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