By Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD
Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Psychiatrist In Chief New York Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia University Medical Center
Past President, American Psychiatric Association
As a psychiatrist who has cared for patients and conducted research for over 30 years, I have published over 600 scientific articles and 10 books for scientists and health professionals, but never anything for the public at large. Then I came to a realization.
Over the course of human history until the latter part of the 20th century, untold millions of people suffered from mental illness and substance use disorders because there were no treatments and little that could be done to help them. However, now that is not the case. We have an array of evidence-based treatments that work, for most mental and substance use disorders. However, because of lack of awareness, shame and embarrassment or lack of access to competent care or insurance coverage, people just aren’t getting them. Imagine if the population of our country was afflicted with infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, smallpox and HIV and they did not seek or could not get antibiotics, vaccines or protease inhibitors.
This is the reality for millions of people in the U.S. and around the world and it is a reality that is no longer tolerable. It is simply unacceptable that the greatest barrier to symptomatic relief and recovery for mentally ill persons is not a lack of scientific knowledge or effective treatments, but stigma.
It is for this reason that I wrote Shrinks, The Untold Story of Psychiatry; to tell the fascinating and scandalous story of mental illness, and psychiatry’s efforts to understand and treat them. Shrinks describes the origins of our understanding brain disorders that affect mental functions and behavior and the evolution of the field of medicine responsible for their understanding and care. It describes psychiatry’s development from a mystical pseudoscience to a bona fide scientifically guided medical discipline that helps people and saves lives, while revealing exemplary case studies of patients. The book also makes an urgent call-to-arms for the public and media to start treating mental illness as a disease rather than a state of mind. As a member of this profession, I think you will find this story incredibly illuminating and inspiring.
But don’t just take my word for it, here is what some other distinguished authors said.
“Jeffrey Lieberman has produced a masterful behind-the-scenes examination of psychiatry—and, by extension, the human condition. His epic narrative charts the unlikely ascent of the ‘stepchild of medicine,’ paralleling Lieberman’s own professional transformation from eager psychoanalytic student of Freud to neuroscience-minded president of a reformed American Psychiatric Association. A wise and gripping book that tackles one of the most important questions of our time: what is mental illness?”
—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon
“This is an astonishing book: honest, sober, exciting, and humane. Dr. Lieberman writes with the authority of an expert, but with the humility of a doctor who has learned to treat the most profound and mysterious forms of mental illnesses. This book brings you to the very forefront of one of the most amazing medical journeys of our time.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies
“Shrinks is a must-read. . . A smart, important, accessible book.” (Patrick J. Kennedy, former congressman, founder of The Kennedy Forum, and co-founder of One Mind).
Weekend Edition with Scott Simon NPR 3/14/15
Charlie Rose PBS Interview 4/8/15
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