Letter: Healing the mind

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Sir: I have great respect for Andreas Whittam Smith, so I was pleased to see him addressing the subject of "care in the community" (20 January). However, although the scientific basis of psychiatry may remain relatively weak, I fail to see how there has been no progress in understanding the relationship between the mind and brain since ancient Greece.

Scientists may have difficulty detecting specific signs of mental illness - there is no blood test or brain scan which proves you have schizophrenia - but they have no problem detecting biological changes. Such findings have inspired a complete change in the way such illness is regarded.

The article suggests anti- psychotic medication has been useless. Sometimes side effects are intolerable, or there is no beneficial response, but many people are helped greatly, especially if they are treated quickly and have supportive families.

I also disagree with the suggestion that all mental illness is on a continuum with normality. This does appear to be the case with attention deficit disorder, one of the examples given, but not with schizophrenia, or the most severe emotional disorders.

Dr ANDREW CHARTERS

Child Psychiatrist

Manchester

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