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Many Forms of Madness: A Family's Struggle with Mental Illness and the Mental Health System

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In telling the story of her son's thirty-year struggle with schizophrenia, Ruether lays bare the inhumane treatment throughout history of people with mental illness. Despite countless reforms by idealistic reformers and an enlightened understanding that mental illness is a physical disease like any other, conditions for people who struggle with mental illness are little im In telling the story of her son's thirty-year struggle with schizophrenia, Ruether lays bare the inhumane treatment throughout history of people with mental illness. Despite countless reforms by idealistic reformers and an enlightened understanding that mental illness is a physical disease like any other, conditions for people who struggle with mental illness are little improved. Ruether asks why this is so and then goes on to imagine what we would do for people with mental illness if we really cared.


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In telling the story of her son's thirty-year struggle with schizophrenia, Ruether lays bare the inhumane treatment throughout history of people with mental illness. Despite countless reforms by idealistic reformers and an enlightened understanding that mental illness is a physical disease like any other, conditions for people who struggle with mental illness are little im In telling the story of her son's thirty-year struggle with schizophrenia, Ruether lays bare the inhumane treatment throughout history of people with mental illness. Despite countless reforms by idealistic reformers and an enlightened understanding that mental illness is a physical disease like any other, conditions for people who struggle with mental illness are little improved. Ruether asks why this is so and then goes on to imagine what we would do for people with mental illness if we really cared.

33 review for Many Forms of Madness: A Family's Struggle with Mental Illness and the Mental Health System

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Woods

    This is not really intended as a review of the book nor a critique. It is simply my own personal reflections on finishing the book on this day - sort of a reading journal, if you will. The publisher categorizes this book as "Religious/Ethics." This is not surprising given that the publisher is Fortress Press, which publishes many books on theology and biblical scholarship, and the author is Rosemary Radford Reuther, who is the author of many books on feminist theology. However, the claim to bein This is not really intended as a review of the book nor a critique. It is simply my own personal reflections on finishing the book on this day - sort of a reading journal, if you will. The publisher categorizes this book as "Religious/Ethics." This is not surprising given that the publisher is Fortress Press, which publishes many books on theology and biblical scholarship, and the author is Rosemary Radford Reuther, who is the author of many books on feminist theology. However, the claim to being a religious work might be a bit overstated. She does give us a very good critique of the treatment of mentally ill persons in our society, and this does make the book a very good work on ethics. She begins with a short history of her family's experience with her eldest son's suffering from schizophrenia, how his illness impacted their lives, and their experience with the mental health system in this country. I found this initial part to be the most compelling in the book. His story is poignant in places, and, as a reader, I can't help but to develop a great deal of empathy for this man, who is about the same age as me. She then attempts to describe, in a layperson's terms, the various symptoms of her son's conditions and then attempts to compare them with her understanding of the DSM. It's not clear to me in some instances if she is arguing her son does not fit the criteria, or if she is just taking umbrage with the terminology being used. For instance, one of the symptoms is "poverty of speech." Ruether points out that her son, David, is a very prolific poet, and she includes a great deal of both his poetry and prose in the book. While the poetry offered seems to be quite well written (at least to this reader), I found it difficult to follow some of David's prose, which was filled with a lot of run on sentences and incorrect word choices. She then goes on to discuss theories about the causes of schizophrenia and how they have changed over the years. Ultimately, she wants to advocate in favor of a theory of "biopsyhcosocial" model that understands the disorder as resulting from a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. It would have been more helpful for her to have spent more time talking about this model, as this is where psychiatry seems to be in modern times, instead of spending most of the chapter going through discredited theories of the past. Another flaw in the chapter is her reliance on Anton Boisen. Boisen, who suffered from schizophrenia himself, saw the disorder as a religious crisis and did not think that medicine had a role to play in the patient's recovery. Unfortunately, many church's still see not only schizophrenia but all of mental illnesses as resulting from some type of "spiritual warfare." This view has done far more harm to patients than good and remains problematic (as far as this chaplain, who serves a behavioral health unit in a major hospital, is concerned). The following chapters then reviews the history of how mentally ill persons have been treated - institutions, hospitals, poorhouses, and the movement towards community care - and goes on to describe the inadequacies of available living arrangements for the mentally ill. The final chapter is Reuther's wish list of what changes she would like to see to this nations' mental health system, based on her own experience and reflecting what worked and what did not. She places a lot of emphasis on county governments being the leaders so that they can tailor programs to meet the particular needs of their locales. This sounds good in theory, but I am having trouble imaging rural counties, where mental illness is not well understood or thought to be only a "big city problem" addressing the needs adequately or appropriately. I read this book because of my own professional interest in the subject. The hospital where I work does take a holistic approach to the treatment of our patients in the behavioral health units - one of the reasons they desire having a chaplain assigned to the units. Which leaves me wondering more about the spiritual aspects of the illness, which Ruether doesn't address until a brief section in the last chapter.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Having a child with any type of mental illness is challenging, but having a child diagnosed with schizophrenia is devastating. Thoughts of homelessness and endless hospital stays come to the mind, when a diagnosis such as this enters a family’s life. This book is about an educator and her struggle to find stability in her schizophrenic son’s life. Everyday there is a battle to find normalcy, support, and understanding for him. His name is David and he is one of many people that battle this tortu Having a child with any type of mental illness is challenging, but having a child diagnosed with schizophrenia is devastating. Thoughts of homelessness and endless hospital stays come to the mind, when a diagnosis such as this enters a family’s life. This book is about an educator and her struggle to find stability in her schizophrenic son’s life. Everyday there is a battle to find normalcy, support, and understanding for him. His name is David and he is one of many people that battle this tortuous disease. This book describes the many situations that David experienced throughout his time in various group homes, mental health facilities, and hospitals. It provides poems that shows how schizophrenia takes the mind of a talented writer and destroys it bit by bit. The author writes with brutal honesty about her struggles to communicate with both her son and his group home providers. A great deal of history is given throughout the book that discusses the treatment of the mentally ill and past remedies that were given. This book was a very intense read. It was both informative and educational. As a parent to a child who was recently diagnosed as a schizophrenic, I find this book very helpful. In our short journey we have gone from possibly autistic, to severely bi-polar, to where we are now; which is schizophrenic. At nine years of age I never thought I would have a child experience something so unique. Reading books like this has allowed me to cope and gather the necessary information that I am going to need in the future. The author painted a realistic picture for me and allowed me to experience her heartache a little early. By doing so I was able to prepare myself and educate myself on some of the resources I may need in the future. Although there is much sadness in this book, there is also a lot of hope. David and his mother share a special bond with one another that cannot be easily broken and today he is faring well. I highly recommend this book to those that have loved ones that are struggling with this unique disease.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kazimiera pendrey

    a wonderful book both heartbreaking and very throught provoking i would recommendthis book to anyone who has any sort of an interest in mental health

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Schmitt

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen Twinem

  6. 4 out of 5

    Barbara P

  7. 4 out of 5

    erica collins

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Claypool

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    Anne

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Turnage

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    Karin

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    Carrie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Thompson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Veliki Zbor

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

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    Chelsea

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    Matthew

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rick Edwards

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melody Harrison Hanson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Sacchetti

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie

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    Anna Vlahos

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ellysa

  24. 5 out of 5

    raysilverwoman

  25. 4 out of 5

    Norit Araia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Lee

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah Spresser

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    Stella Lee

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hallie

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    Olivia Sonell

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Ann

  32. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nedelchev

  33. 4 out of 5

    Green Man

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