Views & Reviews Personal View

The person in the patient

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 28 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2262
  1. Alastair M Santhouse, consultant in psychological medicine, York Clinic, Guy’s Hospital, London
  1. alastair.santhouse{at}

    “The care of the human mind is the most noble branch of medicine”

    Aloysius Sieffert1

    “Psychiatrist—a man who asks you a lot of expensive questions your wife asks you for nothing”

    Sam Bordell1

    My opinion of the branch of medicine that I have given my career to, psychiatry, veers unsteadily between two extremes. At times I am carried away by the nobility of my calling, while at other times I am left wondering at the validity and usefulness of modern psychiatry. I am talking about the vast bulk of mental illness largely ignored by psychiatry but that forms the greatest burden of mental suffering in the population: depression, anxiety disorders, conversion disorders, somatoform disorders, and a variety of other similar disorders. Why are these disorders becoming more prevalent? Is our treatment effective? Is our understanding of the illnesses adequate? Surely the context influences the development of mental health problems; and perhaps understanding the context of our patients and the society in which they live is crucial. After …

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