A Short Introduction to Psychiatry (Short Introductions to by Linda Gask

By Linda Gask

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Psychiatrists of a psychosocial orientation, however, have much more in common with the broader range of mental health professionals such as psychologists, community mental health nurses and social workers, who have appeared in the community during the last fifty years. qxd 38 5/21/04 2:35 PM Page 38 A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHIATRY the community such as local health centres, and prisons. They also visit other places such as residential homes and schools. Almost all psychiatrists now work in multi-disciplinary team settings alongside other mental health professionals, but there continues to be a debate about the automatic right of a psychiatrist to be the leader of the team.

Such a view, alien as it may seem to the well-meaning professional, is not necessarily at odds with the day-to-day motive of the psychiatrist attempting consciously to do the best for an individual patient. As Carl May, Professor of Medical Sociology at the University of Newcastle, said to me: It’s possible for both of these motives to exist in the same time-space; it’s possible for you as the psychiatrist to be exercising your professional skills in what you see as the best interests of the patient and to be doing things that they really don’t like, and at the same time be an instrument of state policy, or an instrument of some grand scientific meta-narrative or some other kind of discourse.

Meanwhile in London, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Aubrey Lewis built a research and teaching environment that would spawn many of the influential psychiatrists of the UK and beyond in the second half of the twentieth century. In America, the National Institute of Mental Health was founded and began to encourage individual states to look at developing alternatives to hospital care. Mental health and illness were seen as being part of a broader biomedical science and the NIMH became a powerful funder of research.

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