Page 6, 19th May 1967

19th May 1967
Page 6
Page 6, 19th May 1967 — IS IT THE CARING COMMUNITY?

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Living With Suicide by Dr. Eustace Chesser (Hutchinson, 305.).

Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry by Dr. David Cooper (Tavistock Publications, 25s.).

DR. COOPER'S book is a well written and in moments an inspiring study in which the plight of the schizophrenic patient is thoughtfully examined. The author a consultant psychiatrist, has sensed that society is beginning to accept for itself the role of a "caring community" and he courageously proceeds to apply what is possibly the acid test, the extent to which a community is prepared to understand and accept its mentally ill.

Dr. Cooper's hypothesis is that schizophrenia is a disease which exists only in mind of the 'sane' who are separated from the 'lunatic' patient only by a certain absence of experience. The disease is rather a mode of family or group disorder against which the individual rebels by producing symptoms, which though often violent are but steps towards independence and hold within themselves the germ of recovery.

This is a significant advance in thought, and a humane one as even in the minds of the converted the schizophrenic still suffers from a popular association of his condition with the mediaeval image of a chained, violent madman.

The author represents the thoughts of a small group of psychiatrists prepared to rebel against mainstream psychiatric practice to the extent of insisting that hospital staff collude with forms of treatment irrelevant to "healing" in the full sense of making and individual whole again. "Anti-psychiatry" is then shown as a healing process, treatment based on family or group orientated therapy rather than on a rigid diagnosis followed by stereotyped drug dispensing or electrical treatment.

My only adverse criticism, and this a minor one, is a feeling that the validity of Dr. Cooper's theories are demonstrable by his practice, and that his occasionally tortuous attempts to philosophise, are perhaps unnecessary.

In recent years a few psychiatrists have secured an extensive lay readership for certain of their publications. One of those who has contrived to popularise his work is Dr. Eustace Chesser, whose most recent publication has little to recommend itself.

This could have been a useful and thought provoking study of motivation in the suicidal personality, but instead one has the almost incidental inclusion of a few chapters on this theme, in a tangled web of amateurish philosophising. Alternatively if one were to accept these attempts to philosophise seriously, a new slant on an atheistic philosophy of life would have made interesting readingre again it fails probably because of Dr. Chesser's chronic inability to discipline his thoughts.

• The Irish Catholic Directory for 1967 (James Duffy and Co., 21 Shaw Street, Dublin, 305., postage 2s. 6d.) shows in its 100page review of Catholic life in Ireland in the past year the enormous impact. Vatican 1I made in that period on the lives of the faithful. The customary compilation of names, facts and figures is as ever invaluable.

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