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THE RÔLE OF PSYCHIATRY IN THE WORLD TODAY
WILLIAM C. MENNINGER
Am J Psychiatry 1947;104:155-163.
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Abstract

We all look with pride on the phenomenal victories of preventive medicine. No longer is the world cursed with smallpox or cholera or yellow fever or typhoid. World epidemics of these diseases are no more. Is there any hope that medicine, through its Cinderella, psychiatry, can step forward to offer its therapeutic effort to a world so full of unhappiness and maladjustment and varying degrees of social disintegration? Can our intensive study of the individual lead us to a better understanding of his environment, of the social forces that affect his life? And can this understanding, if made available to the right leaders be helpful in alleviating these social ills? Perhaps some psychiatrists might answer this in the negative. My own strong conviction is that psychiatry can help.Some of my confrères who will answer in the negative may do so because of a misconception that this program may be an attempt to over-sell psychiatry. My contention has always been that one cannot over-sell the value of a tested product except in terms of ability to deliver. In outlining this program I have had no intention of selling psychiatry except to ourselves. I feel strongly that we are not now in a position even to deliver much of the available information that we might assemble. It has been my intention to direct our thought to a wider horizon and to urge acceptance of our responsibility for contributing what understanding and therapy we can for the problems of unhappiness and maladjustment that exist in the world today. To do this we must greatly increase our trained personnel. We must extend our frontiers of knowledge. We need to crystallize our goals. Our organization should require that groups of us survey specific problems, collect data about these, apply our knowledge to them, and produce a program of action. We need to develop more medical statesmanship, so that our findings and recommendations can be presented to leaders in high councils in many fields of activity. Can we and should we undertake this? We can no longer evade a decision on the matter.

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