Winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2016

Suzanne O’Sullivan has been awarded the Wellcome Book Prize 2016 for her first book, 'It’s All in Your Head', a journey through the world of psychosomatic illness.

Suzanne O’Sullivan, winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2016

Credit: Thomas Farnetti, Wellcome Images

Suzanne O’Sullivan, winner of the Wellcome Book Prize 2016

A consultant neurologist, Suzanne’s book merges autobiography with case histories taken from her clinical experience.

'It’s All in Your Head' shines a light on the range of debilitating illnesses that are medically unexplained, and explores the boundaries between what afflicts the body and the mind.

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 stigma associated with such a diagnosis is profound. 

Joan Bakewell DBE, Chair of this year's judges, called the book "truly impressive". Announcing the judges' decision, she said that Suzanne’s "first-hand accounts of diagnosing her patients offer new insights into the relationship between the body and the mind". 

James Peto, Wellcome Collection’s head of public programmes, added that the judges’ decision was unanimous. "The book is a thoughtful, humane and heartfelt plea for a deeper and more widespread understanding of the intensely debilitating conditions she describes, reminding us that the practice of medicine necessarily remains an art as well as a science."

The annual £30,000 prize celebrates the best new books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness. The 2016 shortlist showcased the breadth and depth of our encounters with medicine through exceptional works of fiction and non-fiction.

The judges for the 2016 prize were:

  • acclaimed author, journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell
  • Frances Balkwill OBE, Professor of Cancer Biology at Barts Cancer Institute and an author of science books for children
  • writer, columnist and salonnière Damian Barr
  • award-winning novelist Tessa Hadley
  • award-winning journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera.