My book club

‘Doctoring the Mind – Why psychiatric treatments fail by Richard P. Bentall.

I have found that as I get older, I am reading much more than I used to. If I look back at my literary development, I used to read loads of books whilst I was at school – mainly novels and then when I went to University, I read a huge number of political books – Marx and Mao Tse Tung and Lenin as well as classics such as Illich. Reading helped me develop my political ideas and developed my interests in areas such as public health. I then went through a phase when I have to admit I read very little – there was hardly any time when I was a junior doctor-working every second day gave me little time for doing much except catching up on sleep and studying for post-graduate exams. However, because of my teaching, I am always looking for inspiration and I am coming across really great writing which I wish someone had told me about. So I want to share some of my reading with you, my students. I am not going to overwhelm you – perhaps suggest that you read 2-3 books a year – some of which we will discuss when we have meetings.

So as a starter, I’m going to suggest reading a book about Psychiatry. Some of you have just finished a psychiatric placement and I can recollect being really challenged by psychiatry. It wasn’t difficult in the sense that there was a lot to learn but it did raise some very fundamental questions for me. What is madness? What is the role of drugs in the treatment of mental illness? I know that I have become very disillusioned by what  is see is an over reliance on the use of drugs for treating many of my patients.

Well, the book I am recommending is ‘Doctoring the Mind – Why psychiatric treatments fail‘ by Richard P. Bentall. Richard Bentall was a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester and now teaches at the University of Bangor in Wales. In this book, Richard looks at the system of mental health care in the West and describes how psychiatry has come to depend on pills and the monetary profit that medication can bring. He argues that much of psychiatric care is frequently built on myths and misunderstandings of madness that hinder rather than help the patient. It will turn your world upside down.

To entice you to read more you should listen to a podcast produced by the BBC. I came across it by chance but it is directly relevant to understanding psychiatry. In the book Bentall refers to The Rosenhan Experiment,  named after the psychologist who wanted to challenge the way in which Psychiatrists and mental health professionals label someone as having schizophrenia. Rosenhan died earlier this year and the BBC produced a short podcast to commemorate the significance of his work.  It really is an excellent piece. Listen to it and then read the book. A must for every medical student and doctor.

Look at the June 5th 2012 broadcast: The Rosenhan Experiment.

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