BY JOHN RYAN
The Pastoral Care of the Mentally Ill, by Norman Autton 4S.P.C.K., 25s.)
THE author has had considerable experience as a Church of England chaplain to a psychiatric unit and this hook will he of special value to members of the clergy who may be attached to similar units.
The more common mental illnesses, psychosomatic disorders, psychoses and neuroses are explained in simple language and in addition there is a very helpful appendix on terminology in mental health.
The author's views as to the part the parish priest can play in the care of the mentally sick raises some controversial issues. Dr, Desmond Pond, in his foreword to this hook points out that "it is becoming increasingly recognised that doctors alone cannot he the only or even the main vehicle of treatment in the vast majority of mental disorders". The question then arises as to what useful contribution. spiritual and social, the pastoral clergy can make towards the welfare of the mentally sick, the number of which in England and Wales is estimated to he between 86 and 108 per 100,000 of the population. one of the principal functions of the priest in the social field is to help the mentally sick, particularly on discharge from hospital, to rehabilitate themselves to their 'social environment and also to help to relieve them of the almost inevitable feeling that they have become the "odd man out" and to help to convince the community in which the patients live, and the patients themselves, that there is no stigma attached to mental illness. To do this. each case has to be considered in the light of the medical background and hence the importance of the liaison between doctor and priest.
The priest's fundamental traMing is to help him perform his priestly and pastoral duties. As the author pointsout-"a priest who sacrifices both his priestly and pastoral duties to become an ecclesiastic psychiatrist is just AS serious a menace to his vocation as a psychiatrist who abandons his psychiatric duties to become an amateur preacher."
No one will dispute that in the care ,if the mentally sick, there is no room for the amateur psychiatrist. Indeed in certain types of mental illness, even spiritual counselling given at the wrong time, however well-meaning, may be devastating in its results'.
The author's suggestion that pastoral counselling might include a knowledge of the directive and non directive approach to the mentally sick is open to question. and it may well be more advisable, for many reasons. to leave this aspect of case history to the trained psychiatrist.
The section on alcoholism is particularly interesting for it stresses the high percentage of such patients who have not the ability to love nor to he loved-a factor which society in general does not fully appreciate. One of the most tragic facets of modern society is that in spite of easier and faster means of travel between communities, loneliness is possibly one of the greatest problems we have to contend with today.