Published in hardback by Atrium, an imprint of Cork University Press on 4 April 2008, price €25 ISBN 9780955226120
In a career spanning over 50 years, Professor Ivor Browne has been at the forefront of psychiatric care in Ireland. Music and Madness is a fascinating insight into one of Ireland’s true thinker-pioneers, and also an insight into Ireland itself.
Looking back on his career, Ivor Browne notes a ‘deep dissatisfaction’ with the direction that psychiatry and the treatment of mental illness has taken in Ireland. He calls attention to the ‘world-wide pandemic of mindless prescription drug misuse by psychiatrists and other physicians to patients who may not need them.
Hugely idealistic and often a thorn in the side of the establishment, his approach throughout his career has been always marked by a passion for healing and a real desire to reach people in their distress, while balancing the politics and frustration that goes with being part of the Irish health system. His views are sure to cause controversy, both within the psychiatric profession and further afield.
He feels that psychiatric services in Ireland should follow a person-centred, psychotherapeutic approach. Unless there is a real change in the training of psychiatrists and in their methods of working, then psychiatry will continue its journey down a blind alley with almost total dependence on medical interventions using antidepressants and other prescription drugs.
Ivor Browne says that it is the person who has to undertake the work himself if he is to bring about any real change in his life. Any change and any new learning will involve pain. Many psychiatrists seem to have missed this point entirely. They think that by giving tranquillizers and temporarily relieving symptoms something had been achieved, whereas in fact, no real change has taken place and sooner or later the person will slip back with a recurrence of his symptoms.
The book includes an introduction by Colm Tóibín who discusses how Ivor Browne’s therapy helped him deal with the suppressed grief of his father’s death. He calls Ivor Browne ‘a towering and powerful influential figure in Irish psychiatry.’
Writer Sebastian Barry calls the book ‘The finest example of a certain type of radical Irish life since Noel Browne's Against the Tide. Vivid, strange, moving, brilliant.’
Apart from discussing his personal journey as a psychiatrist, he reveals his love of music, particularly jazz, and the role this has played in his life.
About Ivor Browne
Ivor Browne was born in Dublin. After his initial studies at the Royal College of Surgeons he worked in Oxford, London, Harvard and Dublin and went on to become Professor of Psychiatry at University College, Dublin and Chief Psychiatrist of the Eastern Health Board. He took the care of mental patients away from large institutions and brought it into the community.
He conceived and was director of the Irish Foundation for Human Development. This set up the first Community Association in Ireland in Ballyfermot, one of the early large housing estates in Dublin. An offshoot was established in Derry, called the Inner City Trust, which not only rebuilt, but transformed the city of Derry during the years it was being torn down by both sides in the conflict.
Ivor Browne’s early wish was to be a jazz musician but TB prevented that.
Some of his favourite memories of his time in the US were the live performances he attended of some of the jazz greats at the time – Coleman Hawkins, Flip Phillips, Illinois Jaquet. He has a deep and abiding interesting Irish traditional music.