National Empowerment Center
Books & Reviews
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The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? By Marcia Angell
Powerful piece in the New York Review of Books covers:
When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans by Paula Caplan (The MIT Press, 2011)
In her groundbreaking book (and we're not the only ones calling it that -- the experts call it that, too), When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans (The MIT Press, 2011), Paula J. Caplan proposes the it-takes-a-village approach to helping vets heal from the emotional ravages of war: that lay people -- family, friends, colleagues, even strangers -- actually listen to vets' experiences. And talk to them about them. While some may certainly need therapy and/or medication, Dr. Caplan writes that "there is only so much emotional carnage of war that psychologists or psychiatrists can fix," and stresses "the importance of every citizen being willing to listen to vets' descriptions of what they've been through." Click here to read the full review. [Click to purchase: When Johnny and Jane Come Marching home]
A Way Out of Madness: Dealing with Your Family After You’ve Been Diagnosed with a Psychiatric Disorder
Book Review by Rossa Forbes, a parent who pens the blog Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia
A self-help manual for psychosis, this book has got to be unique. As a parent, I am not the intended target audience for this book. This book is aimed mainly at young people in their late teens or twenties who have suffered a mental health breakdown and now have to pick up the pieces, usually under the anxious eyes of their families. I gifted this book to my son and have been stealing time with it ever since.
I am relieved that this book was written because, to be selfish about it, it makes my job easier. The chapters’ authors say what I have been saying to my son, but the difference is, they’ve been there and they are opinionated about the role of the family as a force for both good and evil. For every mother and father who is wondering why their child is still at home on the couch after several years, the advice given here will cause you to cheer. [Click here to read the full review] [To read a sample chapter by Will Hall, click here] [Click to purchase: A Way Out of Madness]
Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness, by Robert Whitaker
Book Review by James Wright, LCPC, a family therapist in Maine. 5/2010
In Whitaker’s previous book on mental health, Mad in America, Whitaker asked the reader to inspect the historical record of psychiatric practice and decide if that practice conforms to the standards of science. His approach was to use the basic elements of scientific reasoning to assess the effectiveness of a variety of methods, including water bath therapy, restraint therapy, lobotomy, electro-convulsive therapy and psychopharmacology. It was clear that none of the evidence supporting the use of these methods was convincing to Whitaker, and with good reason. In Mad in America the history of treatment for the mentally ill takes on the appearance of a series of fanciful quests more akin to the flights of Don Quixote than to the process of science. Anyone who has worked in the mental health field can relate to an observer’s dismay at the fad-oriented rise and fall of preferred treatments. Psychiatry and psychology have advocated at length to be considered as fields of science. Sadly, the use of the scientific method has not always accompanied these endeavors and Whitaker had every right to pose the hard questions.
In his new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Whitaker has returned to this inquiry. This time he focuses on the recent history of psychiatry, in particular the field of psychopharmacology. Whitaker asks the same question: where is the science? He wades into the existing research data and picks through the details, asking the data to fit a logical standard. Not surprisingly, much of it does not.
Although Whitaker’s book can be seen as an attack on the use of psychiatric medicines, that isn’t really the purpose of the book. The inherent purpose is to ask some piercing questions related to the use of medications in mental health treatment. [Read more...] [Available at the NEC Store]
A Book Review by LeRoy Spaniol, former editor, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Firewalkers chronicles the profound, turbulent, spiritual experience of living through a mental health crisis. What our society labels as “mental illness” can be a sacred quest that has the power to enrich us, reveal unknown strengths, and transform our lives. A guide to radically rethinking mental health, Firewalkers redefines mental illness as a journey of emotional turbulence, crazy blessings, ecstatic visions and mad gifts.
"I just completed reading Firewalkers. The book is a very moving arrangement of personal accounts that should be read by all people struggling to recover in a very imperfect mental health system and society. And it should be read by the professionals who assist them. These stories are very powerful, courageous, and inspirational." [Click here to read an excerpt or purchase the book from VOCAL]
Ronald Bassman's book, A Fight To Be, is a daring and insightful portrait of psychosis and the "mental health" system we have put in place to address "chronic and persistent disorders." The book is a weave of three distinct threads: it is a personal memoir, a clinical meditation and, finally, rising from that dialogue, a call to action. The first thread offers the authority of the author's direct experience as one who was diagnosed with and treated for paranoid schizophrenia; the second gives us the perspective of an informed, acutely observant clinician; the third, an opportunity to exercise our social conscience--or, perhaps, in the spirit of Dietrich Bonheoffer, to create one.
The memoir is a classic Hero's Journey in which the hero undergoes a series of challenges involving descent into the underworld, pitiless adversaries and death and resurrection in order to realize an authentic self and heal the Wasteland, a culture without compassion. As Parzival, the 12th Century Grail knight learns, "We are what we make of our pain." It is the lesson of one transformed through struggle from warrior to healer, but where Parzival's journey begins in Edenic innocence, Bassman's starts at the extreme of psychological fragmentation.
In 1966, at the age of 23, following the completion of a Masters program in clinical psychology, Bassman makes a conscious decision to let go of an image of himself attached to his academic achievement which he can no longer support. What he has taken for granted as his inevitable identity has the heavy hollowness of a suit of armor. He describes taking it off in a way that allows the reader to experience the consequences of doing so without agenda, and herein lies the power of his tale. [Read more] [Click to purchase: Fight To Be]
I was asked to complete a book review of Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know about Shock Treatment, by Linda Andre. Although I gladly accepted the request, I had misgivings about a book whose title implied psychiatric malfeasance. I was also concerned because I had, earlier in my career, provided electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to individuals who I believed would benefit from it. Secondly, not unlike other physicians, I am weary and critical of medical-scientific writings by individuals whose background is not medical. With that preface, I opened and read this book with skepticism and no small measure of trepidation. What I discovered was something out of the ordinary.
This book is brilliant analysis. It is successful on many levels, including its most important task: presenting an overview of the history, safety and efficacy of electro-convulsive therapy. The book is also a masterpiece of scientific writing. Through her extensive personal and professional research, Andre explained to me things I had already known about ECT, but with additional clinical facts and exceptional insight. She detailed the people and places that have formed the basis for the historical foundations of ECT at the same time that she described the politics and organizations that have continued to promote ECT as a safe and effective modality.
Linda Andre’s work is also a bit frightening. Since I am one of the psychiatrists trained in the Duke University ECT program mentioned in the book, and am also someone who practiced ECT up until the mid 1990s, I experienced firsthand the marketing pitch... [Read more (PDF, 3 Pages, 38KB)] [Click to purchase: Doctors of Deception]
By Terry Weible Murphy, Michael A. Jenike, M.D., Edward E. Zine
EAST FALMOUTH [MA] It's a wonder Ed Zine is alive today, never mind sitting in a house he built himself on a quiet Cape Cod lane, surrounded by his wife and two young daughters and by the therapist he affectionately calls "my brother."
A 38-year-old man with a weightlifter's build, Zine looks nothing like he did a dozen years ago, when, as he puts it, he "hit bottom." A bottom any lower is difficult to imagine.
Zine's extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder imprisoned him inside his basement for more than two years. The toll it took on body and psyche was staggering. By 1997, despite attempts to treat his condition with medication and therapy, Zine had become a ghost of his former self. His torso was pockmarked with bedsores. He walked and talked backward. Visitors communicated with Zine through walls and doors, delivering meals carefully sealed inside plastic bags - bags Zine later used to store his bodily wastes for safekeeping. [Read Boston Globe article by Joseph P. Kahn - Published May 16, 2009]
A Book Review by Gayle Bluebird, 4/21/2009
Norah Vincent makes no apologies for her book, Voluntary Madness, nor should she. She writes as a journalist who voluntarily enters three different mental health settings, two of them hospitals, one a mental health alternative, describing what she sees, how it made her feel, and offering us her untouched, un-sanitized view of things. But, as a journalist, she does not omit telling us she also wrote as one who belonged (as she puts it) ”in the bin”, someone who was fragile and needed to belong somewhere shielded from her own depressive brink. And about that she is as honest as she can be. It all makes for a fascinating and enlightening book.
Most of her observations do not lead to any conclusions but to more questions, more in- flux observations, that, like a maze, has no real ending. When she describes her relationships to other ward mates (patients), for example, there are times she sees herself as a compassionate advocate, disdainful of impersonal nurses, but later she feels some degree of compassion for the nurses, as she painfully admits she abhors behaviors many of the patients exhibit. A flagrant and calculatingly rule breaker, she determines that some of the rules may be based on necessity. At times you wonder which person she is, patient or journalist, as when she describes herself, comically, rolling up toilet paper for shoestrings. She explains it as “passing time” in a place where time rolls slowly and unevenly.
If this wasn’t a true story you would think you were reading a novel whose author, aside from being able to tell a good story, has an extensive vocabulary (I suggest having a dictionary by your side) and an uncanny ability to put most of her sentences in poetic form. Poetry that is sometimes unsettling; sometimes shocking, but always entertaining. Sometimes you are laughing at her irreverence but sometimes you want to say, “Norah, Enough!” [Read More...]
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