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Pure mental

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Title: Pure mental

Author: Dr Eamon Shanley

Publisher:  Shanley

Reviewer: Jane Brocksom, urology & continence nurse specialist. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

What was it like?

Over the first few pages I struggled to know what I was reading – memoir, fiction or non-fiction. Even now as I reflect I’m still not sure. However, the style of writing and the subject matter draw you in – beware the speech in parts is coarse. But that doesn’t detract as the style of writing has you eager to continue reading even though the subject matter is difficult. It’s not easy to put this book down, I did feel tarnished, dirty and guilty about what I was reading. I felt party to the ongoing abuse, I wanted to shout help! I still feel party to the abuse and guilty for continuing reading whilst being unable to help Jim – you continue to read just to find out what becomes of him. The journey with Jim from starting training as a psychiatric nurse in London to qualifying is a rollercoaster of emotions – anger, frustration and complicity.

What were the highlights? 

The wanton abuse of power has had such negative publicity over recent years and has been the subject of many highly charged debates in all aspects of society and institutions, which makes this book such a timely read. I would be interested to hear if any “NHS” book clubs have reviewed this book because I suspect if so it will have caused quite a stir. 271 pages, with 35 titled chapters, which doesn’t break up the narrative but allows you to pause and catch your breath. It’s fast paced and immensely readable. You really don’t want to believe the narrative but deep down you know the truth lies between the lines.

Strengths & weaknesses?

Dr Shanley was a Professor in Mental Health Nursing, now based in Australia although previously worked in Ireland, Scotland and England having published academic writings and conference papers – story telling is now his focus. He describes the title “Pure mental” as referring to staff not the inmates!

I see only positives and I hope the book does provoke debates in institutions and book clubs, while it may have a 1970’s bias I hope we can all learn from reading and reflecting. I suspect we have all worked with someone like the characters in the book and realised we were helpless – just like when reading this book. 

Who should read it?

Every HCP should read this to understand the depths of abuse and what happens in the absence of accountability. Don’t let the title put you off. I sincerely hope it reaches HCPs bookshelves and generates discussions in all institutions not just mental health units – it does deserve to be read.

I feel guilty for saying this but I really hope there is a sequel….

Pure mental

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