This second edition of Principles of Social Psychiatry appears more than 15 years after the first one, and even a cursory comparison between the contents of the two editions clearly documents that the scope and the impact of the social component of our discipline and profession have remarkably increased during the past few years.
There is now a more widespread awareness of the role of social risk factors even in the aetiology of mental disorders that had been traditionally perceived to be mostly biological in their causation. Schizophrenia is a good example. The research evidence concerning the association between some social factors such as urbanicity and a history of migration and the likelihood of developing a psychotic condition is now quite robust, and there is also some evidence of a synergy between these factors and familial liability in the causation of the disorder.
Social psychiatry is concerned with the effects of the social environment on the mental health of the individual, and with the effects of the person with a mental disorder on his/her social environment. The field encompasses social interventions, prevention and the promotion of mental health. This new edition of Principles of Social Psychiatry provides a broad overview of current thinking in this expanding field and will be a source of ideas both in research and for the management of mental disorder. It opens by putting social psychiatry in perspective, within both psychiatry and the social sciences. From the patient’s perspective, the outermost influence is the culture in which they live, followed by their neighbourhoods, workmates, and friends and family. The next section considers how we conceptualize the social world, from families through cultural identify and ethnicity to the wider social environment.
The book reviews the social determinants and consequences of the major mental disorders before considering interventions and service delivery at various levels to mitigate these. It closes with a review of the social impact of mental illness around the world and a thoughtful essay by the editors on the current state of social psychiatry and where it is heading.