Book Review

Reprinted from Clinical Psychology (2002) Issue 9 p 41

This is Madness Too:
Perspectives on Mental Health Services

(eds: Craig Newnes, Guy Holmes & Cailzie Dunn)

Available from PCCS Books


This follow-up volume to This is Madness (1999) uses the same format that was so successful the first time around. A mixture of professionals, academics and service users (sometimes as co-authors and sometimes in the same person) have come together to provide, in 16 chapters, an essential snapshot of current critical thinking on mental health. This is anti-psychiatry for the new millennium, more broadly based and more sophisticated than the original version, but certainly no less needed.

This is Madness Too pursues the same themes of separation of the social control and the therapeutic functions of psychiatry, abandoning the medical model, challenging the power of the pharmaceutical companies, promoting service user views and expertise, and tackling the social and political roots of mental distress. It has also added chapters on children, learning difficulties and eating distress, and draws at several points on the work of psychiatrists from the Critical Psychiatry Network.

The content is as varied as the contributors. There is a memorable introductory chapter on mental health policy by Peter Beresford and Suzy Croft. ("The government's overall approach to mental health policy raises serious concerns because it appears to be neither evidence-based, consistent, workable nor even rational.") There are summaries of important recent work from high-profile figures such as Peter Breggin (on Ritalin and ADHD) and David Healy (on the SSRI suicides.) There is thought-provoking new (or new to me) writing on survivor research by Viv Lindow and on coming off neuroleptics by Peter Lehmann. I also particularly enjoyed Pete Sanders and Keith Tudor's proposals for demedicalizing and repoliticizing counselling, and Jan Wallcraft and John Michealson on developing a survivor discourse to replace the current language of psychopathology. In short, there is something for everyone; no reader will be left without new issues to ponder, debate, question, passionately agree or violently disagree with.

The potential problem with the format is that it can seem disjointed or incoherent. The editors have tried to avoid this by grouping the chapters under four main themes. To some extent, the variety is both (as with the earlier volume} part of the book's charm, and a reflection of the enormous energy that is pouring into the critical psychiatry and psychology movement from many different directions. The other problem is that the selection of topics inevitably seems too limited. I would personally love to read a critical account of the concept of evidence-based medicine or a cautious perspective on the new assertive outreach and crisis intervention/ early intervention teams, or the rise of new "disorders" such as body dysmorphic disorder. Maybe editors would consider a third volume (This is Madness Three?) In the meantime, whatever your own stance, go out and buy this one. You might not like all of it, but you certainly won't regret it.