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The Unquiet Mind, The Autobiography of a Physician in Psychological Medicine - William Sargeant

The Unquiet Mind, The Autobiography of a Physician in Psychological Medicine - William Sargeant

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The unquiet mind of the title is double-edged in its implications. On one side there is the unquiet mind of the mentally disturbed patient and on the other the restless, probing mind of the author who tells of his own experiences in this branch of medicine. He provides a fascinating account of the progress that has taken place during the last thirty years in the discovery of new medical and surgical approaches to the treatment of the mind of man.

When, in 1934, Sargant first turned to the treatment of the mentally sick, patients were still being sent to 'lunatic asylums' where so many of them remained in almost jail-like conditions until death released them. After spending six months as a locum at Hanwell Mental Hospital in Middlesex and a short spell in Nottingham, he returned to London to work at the Maudsley Hospital under Dr.

Edward Mapother. This was one of the few public hospitals in Great Britain at that time taking in only voluntary psychiatric patients; and Mapother encouraged Sargant's growing belief that the future of psychiatric treatment lay in the discovery of simple physiological treatments which could be as widely applied as in general medicine. The gradual development of these physical treatments is most excitingly described.

William Walters Sargant was a controversial British psychiatrist who is remembered for the evangelical zeal with which he promoted treatments such as psychosurgery, deep sleep treatment, electroconvulsive therapy and insulin shock therapy. Sargant studied medicine at St John's College, Cambridge, and qualified as a doctor at St Mary's Hospital, London. His ambition to be a physician was thwarted by a disastrous piece of research and a nervous breakdown, after which he turned his attention to psychiatry. Having trained under Edward Mapother at the Maudsley Hospital, he worked at the Sutton Emergency Medical Service during World War II.

In 1948 he was appointed director of the department of psychological medicine at St Thomas' Hospital, London, and remained there until (and after) his retirement in 1972, also treating patients at other hospitals, building up a lucrative private practice in Harley Street, and working as a media psychiatrist. Sargant co-authored a textbook on physical treatment in psychiatry that ran to 5 editions.

He wrote numerous articles in the medical and lay press, an autobiography, The unquiet mind, and a book entitled Battle for the mind in which he discusses the nature of the process by which our minds are subject to influence by others. Although remembered as a major force in British psychiatry in the post-war years, his enthusiasm for discredited treatments such as insulin shock therapy and deep sleep treatment, his hatred for any form of psychotherapy, and his reliance on dogma rather than clinical evidence have left him as a controversial figure whose work is seldom cited in modern psychiatric texts.

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