Mental health problems are among the most common reasons that patients consult doctors, and many of these consultations take place in primary care, in the accident and emergency department, or in the outpatient clinics and wards of the general hospital. Indeed, the high prevalence of mental health problems means that all healthcare professionals and many social care and educational professionals will encounter people experiencing mental health problems, so all clinicians require basic mental health skills. The ABC of Mental Health gives all clinicians guidance on practical management of mental disorders in an easily accessible format. It provides essential information needed to recognise and manage signifi cant mental disorders safely and successfully, from detecting symptoms, through choice of treatments, to decisions about when and how to seek specialist advice. There have been many signifi cant changes in the 10 years since the publication of the fi rst edition of the ABC of Mental Health. Although the disorders seen by clinicians have changed little, the range of treatments available and the guidelines for their use have changed greatly. Newer psychotropic drugs have replaced typical antipsychotics and tricyclic antidepressants in the fi rst-line treatment of schizophrenia and depression, and already concerns have emerged about their unwanted effects (metabolic syndrome with the atypical antipsychotics; suicidality with some antidepressants). Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has systematised treatment regimens, and emphasised the effi cacy of psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for several disorders.
In the UK, the organisation of mental health services (including the care programme approach) has evolved, and new legislation has amended the framework within which these services operate (Human Rights Act 1998; Mental Capacity Act 2005; Mental Health Act 2007). Within mental health services, there has been an increased emphasis on risk assessment. Populations at risk have changed too, with the numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds up 50% in 10 years. This edition of the ABC of Mental Health takes account of these and other changes. The book begins with an introduction to assessment of a patient’s mental health problems, and then deals with the disorders most frequently encountered in particular settings, such as primary care and the general hospital. The major categories of mental disorder are covered next in greater detail, followed by chapters on the main mental health needs of vulnerable groups (elderly people, children, ethnic minorities, homeless people).