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Mental Health for Primary Care – a practical guide for non-specialists

A personal, often useful and just occasionally baffling book about mental health that strays from practical tips on diagnosis to an academic take on underlying causes

A personal, often useful and just occasionally baffling book about mental health that strays from practical tips on diagnosis to an academic take on underlying causes

This is a very personal book – sometimes pragmatic and holistic, sometimes opinionated and quirky and just occasionally academic and not very helpful.

As is so often the case, the inconsistency makes you wish for a stronger editorial hand, but there is much here to enjoy and much that is helpful for the non-specialist.

Good things first: this is generally a very readable book and helpfully structured around a diagnostic hierarchy (graphically represented as the open draws of a filing cabinet) of organic, drugs and alcohol, psychosis, mood problems, anxiety and personality issues.

Once you have correctly placed a problem at the right hierarchical level, you can enquire about symptoms from the levels below.

A patient with a dementia may therefore also be intoxicated, or an intoxicated patient psychotic, or a psychotic patient depressed, or a depressed patient anxious... and at the heart of all problems, anybody may have a personality disorder!

I also enjoyed chapter 2 (the Yerkes-Dodson curve and how we respond to stress), the practical examples of screening questions for psychiatric conditions and the psychological tools for promoting good mental health that he has summarised in the final chapters.

Less useful perhaps for me were the lecture notes on neuro-anatomy and neuro-physiology and I also found some chapters so list-bound that it was hard for me to extract from them any useful practical learning at all.

But perhaps these are quibbles. We all have our own particular style, our likes and our dislikes and this book presents a great deal of detailed information in a remarkably painless way.

Dr James Heathcote

Rating: 3/5

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