For most people with health queries, the main source of information is likely to be the internet. But as everybody knows, it can also be wildly inaccurate and even dangerous. Those with axes to grind and those who have had bad experiences are given free rein to post whatever they consider to be correct. Psychiatry has no shortage of people who are crusaders for or against particular treatment approaches and there are many who doubt the very existence of mental illness. Those who have a genuine interest in mental illness, either through curiosity or more personally when they or a family member are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, will find in Brendan Kelly’s book Mental health in Ireland” a treasure trove. It is unique in being the first book for the Irish public dealing with mental illness. But is also discusses happiness and cites some Irish studies that will be of great interest to readers.
This book is written by a former colleague of mine now based in Tallaght Hospital as Professor of Psychiatry in Trinity College. He is a mainstream practising psychiatrist, an avid researcher and has a keen interest in the history of psychiatry in Ireland, warts and all.
The book is divided into two parts – the first dealing with the various psychiatric disorders that have been identified and the second addressing mental healthcare in Ireland including the legislation governing Compulsory Admission, Capacity (decision making) and stigma. In this section he examines happiness and Human Rights and their application to those with mental illness. Kelly is ideally placed to write on these topics as he is the author of a definitive book on human rights and mental illness published last year titled Mental Illness, Human Rights and the Law. Also explored in his new book is the labyrinthine course that faces those trying to access psychiatric services for both adults and children.
The chapters on the various psychiatric disorders are written with four questions in mind: what are the causes, how common is it, what are the signs and symptoms and what is the treatment? These are answered in clear and accessible, jargon-free language. He deals with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depressive illness, eating disorders and so on but he also addresses less commonly discussed conditions such as personality disorder. stress and delusional disorders. This is not a dry, turgid work but one that is enlivened by the inclusion of illustrative case vignettes.
Kelly’s commitment to the values of engagement, tolerance and compassion in the delivery of mental health services and in promoting recovery are emphasised but he points out that this is not always the case in particular when controversies such as those relating to antidepressants are raging. This book will be of great assistance in injecting a modicum of knowledge and civility into public discussions of such topics in the future. But it is the person on the street, or their family member, newly diagnosed and seeking accurate information who will derive most benefit from this very clear, readable and comprehensive work.
Review- Prof Patricia R. Casey, Consultant Psychiatrist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital,