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After a long and complicated process we are thrilled to announce the publication today, 1st December of a new edition of Peter Barham's classic book Closing the Asylum: The Mental Patient in Modern Society. It has an additional extensive prologue by Peter Barham and a preface by veteran mental health survivor, trainer, campaginer and poet Peter Campbell.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of almost everyone, but it has impacted most severely on disadvantaged groups such as people with severe mental health problems, throwing pre-existing inequalities into sharper and starker relief. Though they had mostly all been closed by the turn of the century, the passing of the old Victorian asylums is still a matter of enduring controversy.
In this acclaimed book, first published almost thirty years ago, Peter Barham examines the changing fortunes of mental patients in the era of the asylum and after. He demonstrates powerfully that the closure of mental hospitals cannot meet the real needs of people with severe mental health problems without a profound rethinking of the role, rights and status of the former mental patient in society.
In a prologue to this new edition, he highlights the ironies of a post-asylum present afflicted by welfare minimalism, widespread deprivation and impoverishment, and a dramatic increase in the use of coercion and constraint in the delivery of mental health care. Closing the Asylum sets the scene for understanding how the experience of being treated as second class citizens has come about, and the author’s forceful warnings of the dangers in the current mental health scene are highly germane to any consideration of what must change in our society after Covid. Veteran mental health survivor and campaigner Peter Campbell also contributes a preface in which he examines the passing of the asylums, and their after-life, in the light of his own experience.
“I am delighted Closing the Asylum has been re-issued. As we enter an era of post-community care, we urgently need to reappraise society’s response to madness. This classic book sets the tone for that discussion”.
Helen Spandler, Professor of Mental Health Studies, UCLan & Editor, Asylum: the radical mental health magazine