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The Quest for Mental Health
A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society

$28.99 (G)

Part of Cambridge Essential Histories

  • Date Published: July 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521688680

$ 28.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • This is the story of one of the most far-reaching human endeavors in history: the quest for mental well-being. From its origins in the eighteenth century to its wide scope in the early twenty-first, this search for emotional health and welfare has cost billions. In the name of mental health, millions around the world have been tranquilized, institutionalized, psycho-analyzed, sterilized, lobotomized, and even euthanized. Yet at the dawn of the new millennium, reported rates of depression and anxiety are unprecedentedly high. Drawing on years of field research, Ian Dowbiggin argues that if the quest for emotional well-being has reached a crisis point in the twenty-first century, it is because mass society is enveloped by cultures of therapism and consumerism, which increasingly advocate bureaucratic and managerial approaches to health and welfare. Over time, stake-holders such as governments, educators, drug companies, the media, the insurance industry, the courts, the helping professions, and a public whose taste for treatment seems insatiable have transformed the campaign to achieve mental health into a movement that has come to mean all things to virtually all people. As Dowbiggin shows, unless systemic changes take place, the quest for mental health is likely to make populations more miserable before they become happier.

    • Covers many nations as well as the histories of numerous social groups, including women, the poor and people with disabilities
    • Synthesizes a wide range of sources
    • Helps to explain why the costs of health care continue to rise with no end in sight
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "… a very thought-provoking book. A must-read for advanced students, faculty, and practitioners in the mental health fields. Highly recommended."

    "Dr Dowbiggin has written a near-comprehensive book that discusses the role of physicians but focuses also on individual patients, famous reformers, cataclysmic social changes and the contributions of psychology."
    Dr Shane Neilson, Medical Post

    "… ambitious and concise and even-handed in its recognition that various styles of psychiatry have made worthwhile contributions."
    Jonathan Sadowsky, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

    "… Dowbiggin will no doubt inspire stimulating debate among students of the history of science and medicine …"
    Rob Boddice, Canadian Journal of History

    "… a useful introduction to the history of mental health for upper-level history students."
    Amy Samson, The Canadian Bulletin of Medical History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521688680
    • length: 260 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 154 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. A new egalitarianism
    3. Bricks and mortar humanity
    4. Mental hygiene
    5. A bottomless pit
    6. Emotional welfare.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Modern European Social History
  • Author

    Ian Dowbiggin, University of Prince Edward Island
    Ian Dowbiggin has taught history at the University of Rochester, the University of Dallas, the University of Toronto and the University of Prince Edward Island. The author of six books on the history of medicine, he has also published in the American Historical Review, the Journal of Contemporary History, the Journal of Policy History, the Canadian Historical Review, the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and the Bulletin of the History of Medicine. He is on the editorial board of the History of Psychiatry.

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