Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society. By Ian Dowbiggin. Cambridge University Press. 2011. £16.99 (pb). 258pp. ISBN: 9780521688680

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

D. B. Double
Affiliation:
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Victoria House, 28 Alexandra Road, Lowestoft NR32 1PL, UK. Email: dbdouble@dbdouble.co.uk
Corresponding
E-mail address:
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]

Abstract

Image of the first page of this article
Type
Columns
Copyright
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012 

Mental health is a major policy issue in the 21st century. An enormous caring industry has developed to help people with mental health problems. The extent to which these problems are merely everyday life problems and interventions actually undermine self-reliance creates what the author of this book, Ian Dowbiggin, a professor of history at the University of Prince Edward Island, calls ‘therapism’. He suggests the quest for mental health has ‘culminated in a widespread belief that everyone is entitled to mental health, people are sicker than they realise, and government’s mandate is to empower people to enjoy a right to emotional well-being’ (p. 2). His book is a history of psychiatry and beyond from the late 18th century and is said to be an account of how this quest for mental health has produced therapism.

I struggled with this book. Various historical strands are described but they did not form a coherent story that I could easily follow. Readers who know the history of psychiatry will recognise aspects in Dowbiggin’s account but despite my efforts I cannot describe the essence of this book. Ideas are superficially thrown out in what Dowbiggin himself calls the ‘winding road the world has followed since the French Revolution in the populist pursuit of psychological wellness’ (p. 6). I do agree with the author’s belief in the value of a historically grounded approach, but I am afraid he failed to give me much grounding in this subject matter. The social developments he describes progressed chronologically but that was one of the few consistent threads that I could find.

Dowbiggin ends the first and final chapters with a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville. In the last few lines of Democracy in America de Tocqueville wrote: ‘The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst. But it depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.’ I think Dowbiggin is trying to steer us to freedom, knowledge and prosperity in mental health. Certainly he has described some of the servitude, barbarism and wretchedness of this pursuit. State management of mental health is what created the asylums and continues to be a major endeavour that needs to be understood historically.

Submit a response

eLetters

No eLetters have been published for this article.

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 44 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 02nd January 2018 - 19th January 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Access
Hostname: page-component-77fc7d77f9-cdnjt Total loading time: 0.312 Render date: 2021-01-19T02:28:04.646Z Query parameters: { "hasAccess": "1", "openAccess": "0", "isLogged": "0", "lang": "en" } Feature Flags last update: Tue Jan 19 2021 01:55:55 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time) Feature Flags: { "metrics": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "peerReview": true, "crossMark": true, "comments": true, "relatedCommentaries": true, "subject": true, "clr": true, "languageSwitch": true, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true }

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society. By Ian Dowbiggin. Cambridge University Press. 2011. £16.99 (pb). 258pp. ISBN: 9780521688680
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society. By Ian Dowbiggin. Cambridge University Press. 2011. £16.99 (pb). 258pp. ISBN: 9780521688680
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society. By Ian Dowbiggin. Cambridge University Press. 2011. £16.99 (pb). 258pp. ISBN: 9780521688680
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *