Title: Modern mental health: Critical perspectives on psychiatric practice
Editor: Steven Walker
Publisher: Critical publishing Ltd
What was it like?
I loved this book. Ostensibly promoted for social workers and social work students I found it just as appropriate for mental health nurses like myself and I’m sure a whole host of others from service-users to professionals practicing across a wide range of disciplines. The various contributors have managed to distil the essence of their topics into clear, digestable summaries that neither patronise nor overwhelm the reader. The book is an invaluable introduction to critical psychiatry for those new to the topic that also provides the more experienced reader with insights and explanations of the more foundational aspects of critical psychiatry.
What were the highlights?
Various complementary themes run through the chapters including recovery, collaboration and context and holistic approaches. The different chapters compliment each other perfectly and apart from the occasional overly long sentence the writing styles of the contributors are straightforward and easy to follow. Tables and charts are used to good effect in places although I’d have preferred to see this practice continued into the later chapters in place of some of the bullet-point lists. I find charts and diagrams so much easier to take in than lists.
However this is a minor point. The book itself is a veritable gold mine of ideas and perspectives providing very real alternatives to the biomedical model of mental health and disorder. It’s not anti-psychiatry though – it’s critical psychiatry. The authors provide some healthy second glances at traditional psychiatric views and cannot fail but to inspire thought in the minds of the reader.
Strengths & weaknesses:
My own favourite chapters are Recovery by Joanna Fox with its emphasis on personal recovery and “living beyond” disability and Mental health law reform by James Trueman. The latter (despite the absence of charts or diagrams) is an insightful but actually quite depressing overview of a paternalistic system and the self-serving political agendas that underlie the psychiatric legal framework.
Who should read it?
In summary I’d recommend this book for anyone who would like to see past the traditional rhetoric of business as usual psychiatry and form their own opinions having heard more than just one side of the argument. It’s far from complicated and readily accessible to most professionals although the complete novice may need to take a little longer over these pages than others. Their effort would be well rewarded though as they gain an insight into the fascinating world of modern critical psychiatry.