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American Psychiatric Assoc. honors historian Hannah Decker’s book on its book

Special APA commendation for The Making of DSM-III: A Diagnostic Manual’s Conquest of American Psychiatry

The American Psychiatric Association has awarded a Special Presidential Commendation to The Making of DSM-III: A Diagnostic Manual’s Conquest of American Psychiatry (Oxford 2013) by Dr. Hannah Decker.

Dr. Decker, professor in the Department of History, received the honor in early May at the 167th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

Founded in 1844, the APA is the world’s largest psychiatric organization and represents more than 35,000 physician members specializing in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses including substance use disorders.

The APA publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, the guidebook used by clinicians and researchers around the globe to diagnose and classify mental disorders.

In May 2013, the organization released the fifth edition of the DSM. Its revisions were the first updates to the manual since 1994.

Also published in early 2013 was Dr. Decker’s comprehensive look at the process of writing, editing and publishing the manual’s third edition released in 1980.

“Hannah has managed to write a book about the creation of the DSM-III that, even while it takes a critical historical look at what went into the choices as mental illnesses were defined/redefined and categorized, has still been recognized with this commendation by the group that created and continues to revise and issue it.” said Sarah Fishman, history professor and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

“This truly is an unusual honor,” Dr. Fishman added. “Often professional organizations like these are not terribly welcoming of the critical gaze of an outsider – Hannah is not a practicing psychiatrist - and can be very protective and private about what they do.”

UH students are benefiting from her rigorous research and award-winning book.

“As a result of what I learned from researching and writing this book, I am teaching a new interdisciplinary course, History of Madness,” Dr. Decker said. “It examines the history of mental illness in the West since the Enlightenment.  The course is cross-listed in History, Psychology, and the Honors College.”