God, or if you prefer, the Universe, has a way of teaching us things we need to learn if we listen. Recently I wrote about how I get tired of hearing stories about schizophrenia from a parent, sibling, or other relative’s point of view. Well, I am reading a book, “no one cares about crazy people,” by Ron Powers that has me rethinking that blog post. The book is a part memoir (Ron’s only two children both developed schizophrenia), and the other part is fantastic research into culture, politics, history, treatment, and stories of schizophrenia.
Not only am I rethinking relatives writing about schizophrenia, but I have also changed my mind about involuntary commitment. I used to sit on the fence about the fact that someone has to be a danger to themselves or others to be forced into treatment, but I am no longer a fence sitter. If a person is psychotic, and a medical doctor concludes they are psychotic, I think that should be enough to force someone into treatment. There are so many reasons to support this view: prolonged psychosis does more damage to the brain the longer it is allowed to persist, a person who is psychotic has no insight into their behavior and can’t tell someone if indeed they are a danger to themselves or others. And, during psychosis being a danger can change within minutes.
Ron Powers doesn’t take the voice of his sons and tell “their story.” He incorporates words from both of his sons into the book, so we get to hear not only the parent’s voice but the voice of two young men who develop schizophrenia. The book is so good. So, so good. I would send my copy to one of you to read it, but I am going to use it as a reference for years to come.
I thought I knew a lot about the history of mental health treatment in this country, and in other parts of the world (like Nazi Germany). It turns out, I knew quite a bit, but many of the specifics and how those things fit together and move from one age, or condition to another was beyond me.
The memoir part of the book is stunning. The writing is great and to read how one family entered the world of mental illness (and suffered the most tragic of consequences), is enough to split a piece of your heart.
The research is fascinating. The ties that the author makes from psychiatry to Scientology and how these two things linked most bizarrely to negatively impact people’s view of the medical treatment of mental illness was something I knew nothing about. Also, I have always blamed Ronald Reagan for “deinstitutionalization,” but the real beginning of it started with JFK. Reagan just kept cutting and cutting and gutting and gutting – from his time as governor of California to his time as president.
I am three-fourths of the way done with this book, and it has already proven to be one of the best books I have read on schizophrenia and the issues involving mental illness. If you want to know more about the link between creativity and mental illness, eugenics, the laws, the current state of our mental health treatment, the history of psychiatry and more, this book is a good place to begin or possibly because of its wide breadth a good place to begin and end.
The researched chapters are not easy reading, but the fact that the author breaks them up with his personal stories make the book more enjoyable and accessible.