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From The CriticsReviewer: Brett C. Plyler, M.D. (Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
Description: This book collects 45 classics of mental health from the inception of asylums to present day. Each classic represents a perspective on mental healthcare from the whole of range of participants involved in it — patients, caregivers, government employees, and more.
Purpose: The purpose in presenting these classics is to promote an understanding of the development of mental institutions, their subsequent demise, and the progression to the current community mental healthcare model.
Audience: The book is written for anyone interested in the history of mental healthcare in the U.S., whether they are patients, practitioners, family members, or even policymakers.
Features: Four different eras are presented: precommunity psychiatry (1850-1953), deinstitutionalization and community mental health center movement (1954-76), the community support movement and its demise (1977-97), and the recovery era (1998-present). Each section is prefaced by an introduction explaining the political and sociocultural factors that contributed to that era. In each section are the classics which are also introduced by an editorial. The classics range from legislative and policy (e.g., the 1961 Joint Commission report on mental illness) to literary (McDiarmid, "Scrambled Eggs for Brains," Psychiatric Services, April 2005) to clinical (Brenner's Mental Illness and the Economy (iUniverse, 1999) and practice/research (Drake et al., "Implementing Evidence-Based Practices in Routine Mental Health Service Settings," Psychiatric Services, February 2001). It concludes with the authors' thoughts about community psychiatry and the future.
Assessment: For anyone interested in the history of mental healthcare in the U.S., this is a fascinating book. It takes readers through the rise of institutionalization and asylums to their demise and the movement of reintroducing the mentally ill as members of society. The classics are well chosen and interesting to read, and they provide real insight into the mindset of the people involved in mental healthcare of their particular time period. The editorials are thoughtful and concise. This book gives readers a new appreciation of community mental healthcare and I would highly recommend it.