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  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847926395
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $29.99

Losing Our Minds

What Mental Illness Really Is - and What It Isn't




A vital corrective and accessible guide to the science of mental illness

We need to rethink the conversation around mental health.

Public awareness of mental illness has been transformed in recent years, but our understanding of what it actually is has yet to catch up. Too often, psychiatric disorders are confused with the inherent stresses and challenges of human experience. A narrative has taken hold that a mental health crisis has been building among young people in recent years - one that, with the arrival of Covid-19, is set to get far worse.

In this profoundly sensitive and constructive book, psychologist Lucy Foulkes argues that the crisis is one of ignorance as much as illness. Have we raised a 'snowflake' generation? Or are today's young people subjected to greater stress, exacerbated by social media, than ever before? Foulkes shows that both perspectives are useful but limited. As the effects of the pandemic take hold, the real question in need of answering is: how should we distinguish between 'normal' suffering and actual illness?

Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the scientific and clinical literature, Foulkes explains what is known about mental health problems - how they arise, why they so often appear during adolescence, the various tools we have to cope with them - but also what remains unclear: distinguishing between normality and disorder is essential if we are to provide the appropriate help, but no clear line between the two exists in nature. She presents the argument that the widespread misunderstanding of this aspect of mental illness might actually be contributing to its apparent prevalence.

Losing Our Minds
provides both the clarity and the nuance that are so urgently needed.

  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781847926395
  • Imprint: Bodley Head
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Lucy Foulkes

Dr Lucy Foulkes was a lecturer in psychology at the University of York from 2018 until 2020, when became an associate editor and staff writer at Aeon. She has written for the Guardian and The Conversation, has appeared in BBC television programmes about mental illness and hosted a month long residency at the Science Museum. Losing Our Minds is her first book.

Praise for Losing Our Minds

This beautifully written and compassionate account, backed by state-of-the-art scientific evidence, delivers an important message: there is far more variation in the state of our mental health and far more complexity in the diagnosis of mental illness than we tend to believe. This book is needed urgently so that we can examine fears of a tsunami of mental health problems, especially in the light of the current pandemic. Anyone touched by such problems will find much helpful practical advice

Uta Frith, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Development

Losing Our Minds communicates complex research findings on mental illness with unusual clarity and compassion, and without oversimplifying or shying away from the difficult questions. Everyone who either lives with or knows someone with mental illness should read it. In other words, everyone should read it

Essi Viding, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology

This wonderful book offers an amazingly readable and cutting-edge scientific account of mental illness and its relation to the stresses many young adults experience as well as the language we use to talk about ourselves

Matthew Broome, Professor of Psychiatry and Youth Mental Health

In this captivating book, Lucy Foulkes writes exquisitely well about this complex subject, from societal and cultural norms to common misunderstandings and the most recent evidence about what causes mental illness and how to treat it. Engaging and lucid, her book illuminates a subject relevant to all of us

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, author of Inventing Ourselves, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

A must-read for anyone wondering about the state of the nation's mental health, this straightforward and fascinating book is extremely useful at a time when more and more people seem to be suffering mentally but we are still unsure how to define mental illness and what we can do about it

Jo Brand

Thorough, wise, compassionate and methodical, Lucy Foulkes brings a much needed quality to our rather frantic, shallow understanding of mental illness: nuance

Mark Rice-Oxley

A totally counter culture take ... kind and clear-thinking

Helen Rumbelow

A broad and refreshingly non-political survey ... [that] highlight[s] several difficult truths about the reality of mental illness ... Foulkes carefully lays out what we know ... Some of her findings are surprising ... Foulkes is not interested in grand generational diagnoses. She argues that while everyone may suffer from the symptoms of mental distress, only a minority experience mental illness ... Foulkes's message is a cry for nuance and complexity. As she writes, 'all forms of psychological distress are the price we pay for being alive.' While those who are seriously unwell have a right to professional attention, for the rest of us, an awareness of this truth may be just the treatment we need

Nicholas Harris, Prospect

A guide to the state of the art in the science of mental illness ... lucidly written and builds its case with a winning combination of care and concision ... this impressive book is a great starting point for well-informed conversations on the issue. It speaks with calm, rational humanity about why we should hesitate before medicalising our emotions

Professor Thomas Dixon, History of Emotions blog

Clear-headed, compassionate and, ultimately, optimistic. It also happens to be a hugely enjoyable read

Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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