There are two extreme views of mental illness and they are found in different cultures. On one end of the spectrum there are countries like Bangladesh...moreThere are two extreme views of mental illness and they are found in different cultures. On one end of the spectrum there are countries like Bangladesh, where mental illness is something to be deeply ashamed of. People there are loathe to admit they have any sort of psychological disorders because such an admission would imply they are raving lunatics who deserve to be shut away in an asylum. On the other end of the spectrum are countries like the United States, where mental disorders are frequently seen as explanations for thousands of various of behaviors - everything from hallucinations to high energy levels to a fear of snakes. With such broad definitions, white Americans qualify as the most mentally ill people on earth. (According to the National Institute of Mental Health, FIFTY PERCENT of the population has been or will be mentally ill at some point.) These two extreme views are both problematic because both cause unnecessary suffering. Leaving a clinically depressed person untreated can do great harm, while diagnosing a person's normal reaction to hardship as clinical depression can deform their coping mechanisms. There has to be a middle ground.
Although he might not phrase it that way, Richard J. McNally seeks that middle ground. As an American psychiatrist active in the field - and a frequent consultant to the DSM - he considers himself a "friendly critic," skeptical not for the sake of cynicism but empiricism. His book is highly readable and highly informative. (less)