15 AUGUST 1958, Page 7

OVER 40 PER CENT of the hospital beds in this

country are occupied by mentally ill or mentally deficient patients, and the• proportion is rising every year (I am told that in America the figure is believed to be over 50 per cent). Yet, talking to members of the profession, I still often get the feeling that they still regard psychiatry as a poor relation, not to be taken seriously. So it is with no surprise that I find, opening Current Medical Research, that not one of the projects listed con- cerns mental health. These articles are 'brief reviews of the more important findings of medical or biological research,' yet the only one of them touching even indirectly on mental illness con- cerns the discovery of a new 'local tissue hormone' called '5 Hydroxytryptamine (HT)' whose Presence or absence may affect the brain. There are, of course, some research projects not here listed, on different aspects of mental illness, but the amount of money spent say, on research on schizophrenia compares unfavourably with that Which is lavished on polio—a disease of which there are only a few hundred serious cases a year in this country. The trouble with the Medical Research Council is that it is dominated by men Who did their medical training at a time when it Was assumed that nothing could be done for lunatics except shut them up in asylums. Mental Illness, too, does not readily lend itself to the collection of formuhe and diagrams that delight the heart of the statistician. So, the poor relation it remains.

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