Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review: The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

The Great Pretender
by Susannah Cahalan

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness-how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people -- sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society -- went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd "proven" themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?

Kritters Thoughts:  The second book written by Susannah Cahalan and I was such a fan girl after the first that I was first in line at BookExpo to get a signed copy of this one!

This book is different from the first, but seems like a cousin and a perfect pairing.  After Susannah went through her episode and diagnosis that was expertly laid out in her first book Brain on Fire, she took this deep dive into psychiatry and thus this book was born.  Cahalan does a ton of research on a big name in psychiatry - David Rosenhan and his study that he did sending in "sane" people into an asylum to test doctors and nurses and the system.

What a journey this book was.  I am a novice when it comes to psychiatry and its checkered past, so this book was almost part textbook while I learned the ups and downs of institutions and diagnosing of patients.  At first I was hopeful that we had come a long way, but in the end I realized that as a society we are more accepting of mental illness as a true illness, but we haven't come close to making sure that our drugs and therapies are really helping patients.  

While I don't have anyone real close who has been impacted by mental illness, I found this book to be so fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time.  I hope that Cahalan can write another book that takes us forward in this field and provides hope that we are treating patients as they need to be.  

This was another fantastic book by this author and I maintain my fan girl status!  

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from BookExpo.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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