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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Fiction is the truth inside the lie", 29 Nov. 2008
This review is from: All in the Mind (Hardcover)
My question is, does "All in the Mind" live up to the sensitivity and insight shown in the documentary "Cracking Up"?

"All in the Mind" is a novel about a psychiatrist and six patients, whose lives interweave with his own. Like all first novels, it owes a lot to autobiography. Alistair Campbell's own interest in psychiatry stems from his experiences openly and frankly described in "Cracking Up".

The central character, Professor Sturrock is a likeable character who cares more about his patients lives than his personal life, for which he pays the unavoidable price. The Professor has a humanistic approach to psychiatry rather than the "Give them drugs and see if they need sectioning" of modern NHS psychiatric service. As a result there are plenty of details of the lives these people, to which Professor Sturrock responds with everyday, formulaic advice. The advice such as "write down your goals", "do not be afraid to do what you want", combined with weekly homework for his patients, might as well come from a life coach,.

The theme of the book is people, and how they respond to events in their lives, rather than choosing the lives they lead. It is not obvious why Alistair Campbell wrote this book, other than these stories needed to a voice.

The book is important because of the background against which it was written and what it tells us about Campbell's role in government. Sturrock has a lot in common with Campbell. Sturrock is a man who hears peoples' confessions but has limited power to improve their lot beyond offering bland advice, regular meetings and even, when required sanctuary in his own home.

His patients include the David, the humble factory worker, whose final eulogy has a lesson for us all. Others include Emily Parkes, disfigured and desperate to regain the life she lost; Arta Mehmet, the refugee from Kosovo; Hatsatu, whose profession throws Sturrock's own moral values into confusion; and Matthew the sex addict, or not. The final patient, Ralph is Secretary of State, who Sturrock fails to help control his secret drinking.

These are people Campbell knows well. The game must be to put names to faces. However it will take someone with more inside knowledge than I have to complete the clues to this crossword, for example, "The first one is in Jelly but not in Joy"

Campbell's resignation statement contained the everlasting statement "get a life back for me and my family". In his case, it seems likely to be true. Campbell resigned at the time of David Kelly's death and war in Iraq. It is easy to understand why someone whose values are essentially decent found it difficult to continue in government. Equally, Sturrock, at the end of the book realises that something in his life has to give, whether it is his patients, his family whose lives are increasing disrupted by his work, or himself.

There is a final point. I have yet to meet, or meet anyone who has met an NHS psychiatrist who is involved with his patients lives to the extent of Sturrock. I have yet to discover an NHS psychiatrist who can spend a morning seeing six patients for an hour each or treats people with anything other than major psychosis. In the private sector Yes, in the public sector No!

This omission could be forgiven in an ordinary writer but from someone who was at the heart of government from 1997 to 2003, this is worrying. It perhaps explains why our mental health services are in the state they are. This book is evidence that no one in the Blair government bothered to look further than the bland reassurances of doctors at the "top" of the medical profession. Perhaps Gordon Brown's accusation of politicians having Style rather than Substance, applies equally to David Cameron and to the Blair government of which Gordon Brown was part.

Is this a worthy sequel to "Cracking Up"? Yes and no, it lacks the personal insights and sensitivity of that documentary but read in a historical context, it is well worth the money.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Dec 2008 18:54:06 GMT
Part II ;-)
http://doctorbloggs.blogspot.com/2008/12/all-in-mind-by-alistair-campbell.html

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 23:28:46 GMT
Magnard says:
I thought there was a typo in the ridiculous statement 'I have yet to discover an NHS psychiatrist who can spend a morning seeing six patients for an hour each or treats people with anything other than major psychosis. In the private sector Yes, in the public sector No!' But following it up with 'the "Give them drugs and see if they need sectioning" of modern NHS psychiatric service' shows an alarming fondness for lazy generalisation. Yes NHS psychiatrists, of necessity, can't spend as much time with their patients as those who practice in the private sector (where the longer you see patients the more you get paid). But is she seriously suggesting that NHS psychiatrists don't treat anything other than major psychosis? I have bipolar disorder and have been under NHS care for a year. There have been some systemic bureaucratic problems but apart from that my psychiatrist and GP have provided a good mix of treatment and involve me in my care. Liz Miller discredits herself with her unconsidered, Islington-dinner-party slur on the NHS. I was not inclined to read her book offering the magic bullet of 'mood mapping' (which, from reading her interviews, strikes me as a kind of Pilates for the mind, ie popular with middle class women as a panacea, but of dubious efficacy for everyone else). I'm less inclined to read it now.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Dec 2010 00:29:37 GMT
Hi Thanks for this
If you know an NHS psychiatrist who spends a morning a week on six patients, week after week - please send me an introduction, I want to meet them!

Bipolar disorder is an enduring mental illness and is part of the spectrum of major psychosis.

About moodmapping - it is not Pilates for the mind - although I love a good cliche! Mood managemment is not a magic bullet - there is no such thing. Mood management is a skill that takes years to master. Moodmapping is a way of understanding how you feel, it is new, it is innovatory and has had plenty of accolades without approaching middle class women - most members of the middle classes find my personal diagnosis of bipolar, unappealing.

Moodmapping is aimed at people who want to be in charge of their own mental health rather than hand responsibility to their mental health care professionals. Its not for everyone but for those who want the tools to help themselves, it helps.

PS - how did we get onto MoodMapping? but thanks for the feedback,
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