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Book Forum: International Perspectives   |    
Promoting Mental Health Internationally
CLÁUDIO E.M. BANZATO, M.D., Ph.D.; JUAN E. MEZZICH, M.D., Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2003;160:405-a-406. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.2.405-a
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New York, N.Y.

Edited by Giovanni de Girolamo, Leon Eisenberg, Sir David P. Goldberg, and John E. Cooper. London, Gaskell (Royal College of Psychiatrists), 1999, 208 pp., £25.00.

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Sometimes a man leaves such an imprint in a given field that by retracing his steps along the way one ends up with a historical account of the field itself. This is precisely the case in Promoting Mental Health Internationally, published in honor of Prof. Norman Sartorius to commemorate his many years of service (1967–1993) with the Division of Mental Health of the World Health Organization (WHO). This broad-range collection of articles actually aims at paying tribute to the inspiring leadership of Norman Sartorius as well as at highlighting the main achievements of the Division and its predecessors in WHO over this period in its relentless work to promote mental health across the world.

Among the contributors, in addition to current WHO staff members, one finds prominent researchers who played important roles in the developments they report. In a way, these personal accounts turn out to be fascinating because they help us to better understand the process of shaping contemporary psychiatry. And that is a crucial point because, presumably, there is no other medical specialty that remains more conceptually connected to its past than psychiatry.

The pursuit of a common language for mental health workers (which is beautifully described in a chapter by John E. Cooper) seems to permeate the whole book. In a few words, one might say the book basically depicts the establishment of a worldwide network of intellectual and scientific cooperation, which is a landmark in the recent history of psychiatry. The multicenter collaborative work developed under the aegis of WHO has so far contributed to both the generation of knowledge and the launching of efforts toward improving the quality of mental health care around the world, including support for programs at national levels.

Besides the fair historical account of the multiple scientific activities carried out over this period (for instance, the very influential International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia and the Determinants of Outcome of Severe Mental Disorders Study), the reader will also benefit from finding many useful references to the assessment instruments developed in the framework of the WHO mental health program.

However great these achievements have proved to be, the celebration this book represents would not be complete without a critical appraisal of the challenges still facing psychiatry. The article by Assen Jablensky ("Beyond ICD-10 and DSM-IV: Contemporary Issues in Psychiatry") copes with that task magnificently. Jablensky points to the limited inner conceptual coherence of current psychiatry and to the possible side effects of the use of tools such as psychiatric classification; he also discusses alternative models for research, without ever losing sight of the complex intersubjective core of psychiatric theory and practice.

Reprints are not available; however, Book Forum reviews can be downloaded at http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org.

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