Psychiatry and its Discontents
University of California Press (Footprint), $59.99 hb, 376 pp
Madness ‘haunts all of our imaginations’, writes Andrew Scull in Psychiatry and Its Discontents, but it is more than a nightmare. Each year, one in five Australians will experience mental illness, according to the Black Dog Institute, and the World Health Organization warns that one in four globally will experience a mental or neurological disorder during their lifetime. The essays gathered here, however, raise grave doubts about the psychiatric knowledge and practice upon which these epidemiologies are based.
The book opens with a lucid mixture of biography, bibliography, and historiography – a personal narrative of the shifting terrain of madness scholarship over five decades. The sixteen articles and reviews in this volume were written over the last decade. Although they have been revised, sometimes extensively, those who read the book cover to cover will notice episodes to which Scull returns again and again: the professional politics that produced the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition in 1980; the rapid decline of psychoanalysis in American psychiatry over the following decade; and the competition of hospital superintendents, outpatient clinicians, neurologists, and psychologists over the human mind. Anathema in a monograph, here the repetition makes for an emphatic, iterative articulation of the recurring themes of Scull’s research.