Mental Health Social Work: Evidence – Based Practice

 Mental Health Social Work: Evidence – Based Practice
 Colin Pritchard, Routledge
 ISBN 0415319021, £20.99


In this book, which sets out to offer a bio-psychosocial approach to mental disorder, Colin Pritchard argues that the nature and development of the mind is a “core issue of humanity” and one that mental health social workers can find challenging, writes John Percival.

Pritchard certainly tries to make his subject matter interesting as he details different forms of mental disorder and aspects of practice with the help of both academic literature and an array of poetry and prose. His descriptions of the medical and biological features of mental health problems, the range of disorders, and the role of the therapist in working closely with the individual client are particularly good. But he pays less attention to the social aspects of mental health and the role of the modern community-based social worker.

There is little evidence, for example, of the user/survivor movement or anti-stigma initiatives, developments that surely have a place in increasing practitioners’ awareness and the relevance of their work.

There is also very little public or social policy context, with few references to guidelines or frameworks, nor is there sufficient attention to the impact of social problems, such as unemployment and poverty, or to community-based solutions, such as education and peer groups.

At one point Pritchard uses the homogeneous descriptor “the mentally disordered” and he does tend to downplay the importance of individual’s unique experiences, skills and aspirations. As Peter Beresford, an academic and service user, has said, people with mental health problems do not “come empty handed”.

I was also concerned at the gender imbalance of the 40 or so case studies, which were interesting in themselves but included only seven focusing on women.

This book is worth a look but there are significant gaps that affect its overall usefulness.

John Percival is a freelance researcher and also works as an approved social worker

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