Book Review – DSM69 by Dolly Sen


DSM 69 by Dolly Sen is the latest must-have edition to the DSM series. In a departure from its more traditional format, DSM 69 argues that disorder is not located in the mad but within psychiatry itself.

In DSM 69 we find a collection of words and artwork that leap out of the page and grab us by the scruff of the neck, demanding that we look again, look closer, look with a compassionate and critical eye at this thing we call madness.

Dolly is a wordsmith, her sentences finely crafted to run a river direct from her soul to that of the readers, taking us on a guided tour through the brutality of her experience at the hands of psychiatry through to her discovery of art as a tool to reclaiming her identity. Dolly rejects that mad people are lesser beings and calls on her peers to make their lives as ‘bold and colourful and beautiful as we like’.

Not merely a wordsmith, Dolly’s art such as the big red heart with the words ‘pathologise this’ emblazoned across it gives a powerful image of more than just survival, it’s a kick ass defiance against those who tried and failed to break her. Dolly’s heart isn’t just still beating, it’s burning an invitation to us all to reconnect to our own hearts and reject anyone or anything who suggests we are less than.

For a small (A6) book, much is covered; the shaming impact of the system, the failing time to change campaign that encourages us to talk about our individual maladies without tackling the unjust systems that hold them in place, the fetishisation of mad people, the way self-help techniques are subservience – not life – improving, the alienation of mad people and much more.

Packed with laugh out loud moments, I’d urge you that if you find you must read any copy of the DSM, make it this one.

Due for release on June 13th

Dolly Sen is a well known artist and activist working and exploring what it means to experience mental distress and the effects of being labelled with a psychiatric diagnosis. Her art is witty, humorous, but also cutting and coruscating subtly getting under the skin of everyday psychiatric assumptions that leaves one feeling both wiser and nourished yet still in good humour. We are all the better for her art. DSM69 is a small booklet, a notice of intent, containing a selection of Dolly’s art and several manifestos.

Dolly’s website:

You can buy Dolly’s book at or on Amazon

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