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Book and Media Reviews
December 21, 2011

Classics of Community Psychiatry: Fifty Years of Public Mental Health Outside the Hospital

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, George Washington University Hospital, Washington, DC (

JAMA. 2011;306(23):2622-2623. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1849

One way of organizing the history of mental health in the last 50 years—the period under study in Classics of Community Psychiatry —is to view it as the history of the fate of the asylum. As psychiatric patients moved out into the community outside the gates of the asylum, the community changed and so did the ways in which these patients are classified and treated.

This book provides readers with extracts of what the authors determined to be classics—writings that trace the ideological pathway back to the idea of the asylum. As Talbott and Lamb maintained in their 1984 task force report on the homeless mentally ill, included in this volume as a classic: “Ongoing asylum and sanctuary should be available for the small proportion of the chronically mentally ill who do not respond to current methods of treatment and rehabilitation” (p 481).

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