Kate F's Reviews > Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present

Mad, Bad and Sad by Lisa Appignanesi
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May 30, 11

Read from April 25 to May 30, 2011

This is a big book about a huge subject. It intrigued me in the book shop and has largely kept my interest throughout. It could perhaps have been reduced by about 25% in length without any loss of interest - indeed it would have benefited from a litlle pruning. The case histories that she used were particularly interesting. I found the sections about the various amendments to the diagnostic manuals for mental health rather heavy going and could quite happily have skipped those bits had I not thought I might miss something interesting in doing so.

Focussing on women's mental health and treatment over the last 200 years was an interesting premise and largely successful. I wonder what the likes of Mary Lamb and Henriette Cornier would have made of today's world of instant diagnosis and treatment. Would they have been diagnosed before they were able to commit their horrible crimes? Would Mary have been amazed at the proliferation of different disorders that have been identified and for which a pill or therapy has been devised? Or would she have thought that perhaps the world itself had gone a little mad in trying to classify every fear/disappointment/hurt feeling as a symptom of a wider illness.

I declare a personal interest here. I have sought help for mental problems. After the suicide of my grandmother I suffered through a terrible black pit of despair that included a half hearted suicide attempt without any drugs or treatment except a couple of sessions with the community psychiatric nurse and came out the other side feeling stronger and wiser. I have taken Prozac, in my case for hormone related psychological problems and it gave me my life back at a time when I thought I would never feel normal again and I still take an anti-depressant but not for any mental health issue but to keep severe, frequent migraine under control. .

This book, or at least a version of it, should be read by all young people, particularly young women, and all those people who believe they are suffering from some of the modern ills that obsess them so that they can see that they may in fact be being manipulated by a media obsessed with image and big pharma that claims to have all the answers in a handy capsule.

For those who are truly suffering from depression, bi polar, schizophrenia, anorexia etc I am thankful that treatments seem to have improved over the years and hope that they continue to improve to help them. I hope that anyone living with these conditions receives the care and attention from an enlightened and sympathetic medical profession that they need and I hope that they are never left to suffer alone.

To all the others, I say "get a grip and count your blessings".
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04/25/2011 page 90
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