Head First by Alastair Santhouse [5/10]

A top psychiatrist reflects on a lifetime of treating patients in hospital … I expected such a book to fascinate and yes, “Head First: A Psychiatrist’s Stories of Mind and Body” does intrigue. The author darts backward and forward in time, recalling patients pained, miserable, suicidal, and everything in between. Seemingly a humble mind, he reflects on the ongoing mysteries of why minds become troubled, how treatments are accepted or subverted, how mental and emotional conditions interact with bodily symptoms. Because he has mostly worked in the hospital system, Head First is also a valuable insight into how psychiatry has gradually, but undoubtedly insufficiently, gained a foothold in overall treatment. Santhouse bewails the myopia of medical specialization and doctors’ incomprehension of the role of the mind in illness and pain. The author’s style is straightforward and direct, almost conversational, and I would have enjoyed a more compelling voice and a less amorphous overall shape, but there is value and insight in this read.

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