Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2016: ‘It’s All in Your Head’ by Suzanne O’Sullivan


Congratulations to Suzanne O’Sullivan for winning the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize with ‘It’s All in Your Head’

It's All in Your Head by Suzanne O'Sullivan

After weeks of celebrating all six books on the remarkable shortlist, Suzanne O’Sullivan was tonight announced as the winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 for, ‘It’s All in Your Head’. The announcement was made by acclaimed author, journalist, broadcaster and chair of judges, Joan Bakewell, at a special ceremony held in Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room.

The seventh winner of the prize, Suzanne will receive £30,000. The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness, showcasing the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.

It’s All in Your Head is Suzanne’s first book, a focused look at the range of debilitating illnesses that are medically unexplained. We all exhibit physical responses to emotion – from blushing and laughter, to palpitations and stomach-ache – yet sometimes these expressions can be much more debilitating, causing seizures, paralysis, and even blindness, and the stigmatisation associated with such a diagnosis is profound.

As many as a third of people visiting their GP have symptoms that don't appear to have an obvious medical cause. Merging autobiography with absorbing case histories taken from her clinical experience, O’Sullivan’s work spotlights an area of increased attention in medical science – the boundaries between what afflicts the body and the mind and how deeply related the one is to the other.

James Peto, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection, said of the book: “We are delighted that the judges have unanimously chosen to award the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 to Suzanne O’Sullivan’s absorbing and beautifully written It’s All in Your Head. Suzanne’s book is a thoughtful, humane and heartfelt plea for a deeper and more widespread understanding of the intensely debilitating conditions she describes. An honest and revealing exploration of an area of healthcare where there is still much that is not yet known, this book reminds us forcibly of the complexities of the relationship between mind and body, and that the practice of medicine necessarily remains an art as well as a science.”

Suzanne O’Sullivan has been a consultant in neurology since 2004, working first at the Royal London Hospital and today as a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. She also works for a specialist unit based at the Epilepsy Society. Alongside her work with those suffering from physical diseases, she has developed expertise in working with patients with psychogenic disorders.