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Books, Journals, New Media
June 26, 2002

Mental IllnessThe Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness From 1750 to the Present

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2002;287(24):3267-3268. doi:10.1001/jama.287.24.3267-JBK0626-4-1

In The Invisible Plague: The Rise of Mental Illness From 1750 to the Present, E. Fuller Torrey and Judy Miller present a minority view on an issue for which polemics have prevailed but satisfactory data are limited. Torrey is a research psychiatrist and academic maverick acclaimed for his lay manual Surviving Schizophrenia, and Miller is a senior research assistant and colleague.

Focusing on the United States, England, Ireland, and Canada, the authors postulate an overlooked, epidemic increase during the last 250 years of psychotic illnesses for which a clear etiology remains unknown—principally, schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorders, and psychotic depression. Their tripartite method includes analyzing available records, examining literary depictions of psychiatric illness, and confronting historiographical controversy. The authors' urgent, even apocalyptic, tone appears a clarion call to discover the source of what they consider an ignored medical and social disaster.

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