The Encyclopedia of Mental Health by Ada P Kahn, MPH, and Jan Fawcett, MD, Facts on File, Inc., New York.  1993, 464 Pages.

Review by Del Meyer, MD

When the above volume reached my desk, I was considering which of my psychiatric friends I could ask to review the volume.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a chance to refer to it a number of times and have been pleasantly surprised as to how often it has given me basic information.  The Chicago authors, Ada Kahn, MPH, a science writer and communications consultant, and Jan Fawcett, MD, (Yale/Langley Porter) Director of the Rush Institute for Well Being and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, have written a compendium of facts to help people understand why they behave as they do in order to gain insight into their actions, thus possibly achieving better mental health either on their own or with professional help.  Since the authors use common terms that patients can understand, they recommend that physicians in primary care make copies of entries and hand them to patients.  It would appear that the patient's family in most instances would benefit more from the information and better understand the patient’s behavior or problem. 

It provides the psychiatric patient with definitions to basic terms and explains the basic differences between a psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.  It serves as a quick reference guide when seeing Social Security patients on disability who also have such things as agoraphobia, acrophobia and heterophobia.  It was also interesting to note that the psychodynamics of such items as Music Therapy, which I last saw during my senior medical student rotation at Menninger, are still poorly understood.  The definition of “calling cards,” was a new one, as was “angry woman syndrome.”  I hadn’t realized that I had some “Idiot Savants” in my practice. 

Most of the psychiatric drugs are also covered, providing a quick overview.  Buspirone was covered in its usual anxiolytic fashion.  Vernon M. Neppe, MD, PhD, Director of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute in Seattle, who gave a very erudite lecture in this community recently, feels that BuSpar is the first specific drug for agitation, restlessness, and irritability, which has not yet received FDA approval.  Neither has it been approved for prison inmates’ drinking water. 

The Encyclopedia has an appendix listing the addresses and phone numbers of organizations that may provide support to our patients’ families.  The Obesity Foundation caught my eye.  Maybe I can give that address and phone number to my Pickwickian patients.  They all need to lose 100 pounds or more.  There is a 20-page index that appears to be well cross-referenced so that any topic covered can easily be found.  There also is a 44-page bibliography for those who want to look up references on aging, Alzheimer’s, child abuse, fatigue syndrome, grief, self-esteem, and a host of other entries. 

Kahn, a Fellow of the American Medical Writers Assn, is also co-author of the Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears and Anxieties, The A-Z of Women’s Sexuality, and Mid-Life Health: A Woman’s Practical Guide to Feeling Good.  Fawcett is editor of Psychiatric Annals and president of the Psychiatric Research Society. 

This volume would seem to fill the need for those physicians who have an interest in helping patients understand some emotional aspects of their disease, as well as the families who cope with these patients.  Photostatted entries could also be recommended to a number of patients and probably their families for the same reason.  A copy can be obtained from Facts On File Books at 1-800-322-8755.