A ‘compassionate and humane psychiatrist’ might seem like an oxymoron in today’s pharmaceutical-driven mental healthcare system that views patients through a very clinical and myopic lens. But while most doctors are wont to prescribe pills for a quick recovery from psychological ailments, Dr Mike Shooter proves to be an exception. And an exceptional therapist who does not shy away from acknowledging the complexities involved in understanding human frailties. Even as he acknowledges the need for pills in some cases,
he emphasises seeing the whole child in context.
Possibly because of his own firsthand experience of depression, he exhibits a rare sensitivity towards his patients, who he sees first and foremost as human beings. in Growing Pains, Dr Shooter acknowledges the fuzziness of psychiatric diagnostic categories, and makes a case for seeing the person and not just the clinical label tagged to them. In fact, he underscores the importance of helping people who are overcome by life’s curveballs, even when no clear-cut diagnostic label ‘would fit their problems’.
Weaving in case studies of children and adolescents, and their families, he paints a portrait of childhood suffering that is fairly all-encompassing. In addition to covering a gamut of psychological issues from anorexia to anxiety to aggression, he also addresses the mental trauma of chronic physical ailments. More importantly, he analyses familial, social, economic and cultural factors that also underpin mental health.
As he writes in the prologue, ‘this is a book full of stories – true stories’. But what really sets these stories apart is the ability of the author to empathise with the protagonists. And, this is no mean feat as his clientele represent a diverse range of ages, backgrounds, communities and experiences.
Dr Shooter’s skills as a therapist are also evidenced by his attuned listening skills as he advocates listening not just with your ears, but also with your eyes and heart. And, in order for this to happen, he understands the significance of building a ‘trusting relationship’.
Growing Pains is an engaging, educative and uplifting read for anyone who is invested in children and adolescents. Whether you are a psychiatrist, teacher, parent or nurse, this book is replete with stories that will both touch and inspire you. And, at the same time, Dr Shooter also sounds a wake-up call to societies to examine systemic and institutional factors that perpetuate human suffering.
- Reviewed by Aruna Sankaranarayanan, Director, PRAYATNA, a centre for children with learning difficulties in India
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