Sunday, 23 February 2020

NO ONE CARES ABOUT CRAZY PEOPLE BY RON POWERS


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BOOK DESCRIPTION
New York Times best-selling author Ron Powers offers a searching, richly researched narrative of the social history of mental illness in America paired with the deeply personal story of his two sons' battles with schizophrenia.
From the centuries of torture of "lunatiks" at Bedlam Asylum to the infamous eugenics era to the follies of the antipsychiatry movement to the current landscape in which too many families struggle alone to manage afflicted love ones, Powers limns our fears and myths about mental illness and the fractured public policies that have resulted.
Braided with that history is the moving story of Powers' beloved son Kevin - spirited, endearing, and gifted - who triumphed even while suffering from schizophrenia until finally he did not, and the story of his courageous surviving son Dean, who is also schizophrenic.
A blend of history, biography, memoir, and current affairs ending with a consideration of where we might go from here, this is a thought-provoking look at a dreaded illness that has long been misunderstood.

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Release date 


MARCH 29, 2017



MY REVIEW

Ron Powers and his wife, Honoree Fleming, were intellectuals with two growing sons when their idyllic life in a Vermont college town began to fray. Both of them taught at Middlebury, she as a scientist and he as a writing teacher. Their sons, auburn-haired Dean and blond Kevin, three years younger, were bright, sensitive and well-liked.

But not very far into the wide-reaching examination of the treatment of mental illness, we learn that Kevin has died after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and that Dean is being treated for the same disease. The very moving story of these young men’s problems runs in tandem with Powers discussion of society’s shameful treatment of mentally ill people throughout history. He recounts how when it appeared that some progress was being made in the United States after World War II, two individuals—Thomas Szasz, a physician, and L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and founder of Scientology— played a powerful role in running reform off the tracks, as it is still today. Our mentally ill population was pushed out of the asylum into the streets and prisons.

Out of respect for family privacy, Ron Powers first undertook a study not only of psychiatry as a social policy but of various treatments, many of them deadly, and how they came into use. An editor convinced him to relate the family’s experience with mental illness, and these passages give the book a kind of vibrancy and tenderness that pulled this reader through the forest of doctors and “experts” (almost all male) and their conceptions of and treatment for illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Altzheimer’s, and schizo-affective disorder.

Scans have demonstrated that severe mental illness is a disease that distorts the brain, something that Freud and his followers had no way of knowing without access to magnetic scanning. Powers is particularly instructive about the vulnerability of the teen brain, which is pruning tissue and reorganizing as the youth becomes and adult. A compelling theory is that stress and drugs, such as marijuana, can have a detrimental effect on a developing mind genetically predisposed to mental illness.

This is not an easy read, but it’s a vital one that goes beyond a single family that was willing to share its suffering and point the way toward healing.

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