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N Sartorius. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002, £29.95, pp 266. ISBN 0 521 58243 1
This volume is a collection of essays and articles written by Norman Sartorius, the very eminent and influential psychiatrist. Fighting for Mental Health in Professor Sartorius’ judgement means fighting on three fronts—ensuring that psychiatric practice is based on evidence and experience, that it is part of medicine and develops mutually supportive relationships with it, and that it grows in conjunction with overall socio-economic development. The book is divided into three parts addressing each of these three themes. There is a wealth of stimulating, challenging, and elegant argument used in so doing, and whether one agrees or disagrees with any particular premise the clarity of thought is enviable. Inevitably in a collection such as this there is some degree of repetition and, to some extent, a difficulty in maintaining a focus on the overarching themes and concepts. Nevertheless the book amply repays the time spent in reading each essay carefully and thoughtfully, and it is a great pleasure to recognise Professor Sartorius’ passion for the wellbeing of people with mental health problems. Each chapter of the book is illustrated by a very carefully selected painting and each of these adds another dimension to the work.
At the end of his introduction Professor Sartorius urges psychiatrists to “fight the social and political battles that are necessary to improve the fate of people struck by mental illness, and make psychiatry and related disciplines and sciences useful to society and responsive to its ethical duties”. This is a rallying call which I hope will be heard and responded to by many.
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