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Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness [Hardcover]

by Pete Earley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 20, 2006 0399153136 978-0399153136 1
Pete Earley had no idea. He'd been a journalist for over thirty years, and the author of several award-winning-even bestselling-nonfiction books about crime and punishment and society. Yet he'd always been on the outside looking in. He had no idea what it was like to be on the inside looking out until his son, Mike, was declared mentally ill, and Earley was thrown headlong into the maze of contradictions, disparities, and catch-22s that is America's mental health system.

The more Earley dug, the more he uncovered the bigger picture: Our nation's prisons have become our new mental hospitals. Crazy tells two stories. The first is his son's. The second describes what Earley learned during a yearlong investigation inside the Miami-Dade County jail, where he was given complete, unrestricted access. There, and in the surrounding community, he shadowed inmates and patients; interviewed correctional officers, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, mental-health professionals, and the police; talked with parents, siblings, and spouses; consulted historians, civil rights lawyers, and legislators.

The result is both a remarkable piece of investigative journalism, and a wake-up call-a portrait that could serve as a snapshot of any community in America

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Suffering delusions from bipolar disorder, Mike Earley broke into a stranger's home to take a bubble bath and significantly damaged the premises. That Mike's act was viewed as a crime rather than a psychotic episode spurred his father, veteran journalist Pete Earley (Family of Spies), to investigate the "criminalization of the mentally ill." Earley gains access to the Miami-Dade County jail where guards admit that they routinely beat prisoners. He learns that Deidra Sanbourne, whose 1988 deinstitutionalization was a landmark civil rights case, died after being neglected in a boarding house. A public defender describes how he—not always happily—helps mentally ill clients avoid hospitalization. Throughout this grim work, Earley uneasily straddles the line between father and journalist. He compromises his objectivity when for most of his son's ordeal—Mike gets probation—he refuses to entertain the possibility that the terrified woman whose home Mike trashed also is a victim. And when, torn between opposing obligations, he decides not to reveal to a source's mother that her daughter has gone off her medications, he endangers the daughter's life and betrays her mother. Although this is mostly a sprawling retread of more significant work by psychologist Fuller Torrey and others, parents of the mentally ill should find solace and food for thought in its pages. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


...alternates neatly between Mike's story and accounts of the innumerable hours Early spent learning about...our nation's mental health system. -- Washington Post Book World, June 4, 2006

Earley builds a compelling case... -- Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2006

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1 edition (April 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399153136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399153136
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pete Earley is a storyteller who has penned 13 books including the New York Times bestseller The Hot House and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness.

After a 14-year career in journalism, including six years at The Washington Post, Pete became a full-time author with a commitment to expose the stories that entertain and surprise.

His honest reporting and compelling writing helped him garner success as one of few authors with "the power to introduce new ideas and give them currency," according to Washingtonian magazine.

When Pete's life was turned upside down by the events recounted in his book Crazy, he joined the National Alliance of Mental Illness to advocate for strong mental health reform on the public stage.

This new advocacy has taken him to 46 different states and multiple countries around the globe where he delivers speeches to rally against the troubled mental health systems and for the mentally ill.

As an author, Pete has been on the receiving end of many accolades, including:

- 2007 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for General Nonfiction
- New York Times Bestseller for The Hot House
- Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice
- Edgar Award Winner for Best Fact Crime Book

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 123 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes. It's all true... April 24, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For anyone who has either "been there" himself or has watched a loved one descend into madness, this book will seem heartbreakingly familiar. But I fear that only the people who know and understand what Pete Earley and his son, Mike, have been through will buy and read this book. And it's not those people who need to understand just how "crazy" the treatment of the mentally ill in our country is in the 21st century. Until you've seen it from the inside, most people will have no idea that a parent has no power to help a sick child who happens to be 19 years old. That the person who is "crazy" is given the responsibility of making decisions about his care when he is as divorced from reality as he has ever been. That the only way of getting any sort of treatment is to first assault someone or try to kill onesself or another person. The average person has no idea of the hopeless, helpless position someone with a mental illness and their family are put in by the very people who we hope will HELP. As Mr. Earley points out in the book, who among us, particularly those in the medical profession, would walk by a person in pain, dying of cancer, without attempting to help? Who would send that person to jail to be locked up with murderers and rapists instead of to a hospital, where he would be given the medical treatment he needed? Who would suggest that no help could be given to him until he tried to kill himself or someone else? This is what happens to someone's son, daughter, mother, husband every day in this country. Mr. Earley has come to understand mental illness and the horrible state of care and treatment in the United States in a very personal and tragic way, as many, many of us have. Read more ›
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Advocacy Tool for NAMI Members May 30, 2006
In the book, "Crazy: A Father's Search through America's Mental Health Madness," Pete Earley tells a story that is all too familiar to NAMI members. As an award-winning journalist for over thirty years, Mr. Earley has effectively captured the absurdities of the mental health system in our country through his investigative journalism and his personal understanding of mental illness.

Mr. Earley's son, Mike, has a psychotic episode while in college and breaks into a stranger's home, takes a bubble bath and causes significant damage. Thus begins their long journey into the broken mental health system that so many of us confront everyday in this country. Mr. Earley learns all too quickly just how difficult it is to receive necessary treatment for his son's mental illness. He uses his frustration to launch a personal and professional inquiry into a confusing mental health system coupled with an irrational criminal justice system.

Mr. Earley is granted full access to the Miami-Dade County Jail's "forgotten floor"--the jail's primary psychiatric unit where prisoners are housed without treatment. He can see firsthand that, indeed, our jails and prisons have become the repository for persons with serious mental illness. The prisoners have committed both felonies and petty misdemeanors, all because of their untreated brain disorder. Yet there is no chance at rehabilitation in jails. The prisoners linger in their psychoses for months at a time, only to await a bus ride to a psychiatric facility where they receive minimal treatment in order to have a competency hearing and then are brought back to the jail to await a hearing that will probably never happen.

"Crazy" is a book that NAMI members can use as an advocacy tool to improve mental health care in their communities.
Read more ›
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very powerful April 24, 2006
By Dr. B
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a must read for anyone in the mental health profession, as I am. I think its critical for practitioners to be reminded every now and then about why we got into the profession in the first place, and most importantly what it feels like to be on the receiving end of our services. This book is an intensely personal work, aside from being a fine example of the muckraking tradition that is journalism at its best. I truly admire Mr. Eareley's willingness to tell his own story. Psychosis is not pretty, as any of us who have had a friend or loved one suffer with it know, and its very hard to watch someone loose their mind. The only thing worse would be to watch it happen to your precious child and be powerless to help. I highly recommend this book to parents, practitioners and most strongly to politicians.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
i have been going crazy trying to get the help my son needs and deserves so he can lead a productive life. he's been in and out of the hospital for the last 3 1/2 yrs, and i dont think the meds are right yet. it is amazing that he has to be "homeless" in order to get the right therapy that he needs in order to make him a productive person later on. i also understand the courts not "getting it". we went through hell when he got arrested for what turned out to be nothing but a clerical error. he spent 9 days in 23 hour lockup without his meds. the police who arrested him, stormed the house he was living in with 27 other mentally ill people, threw him down and cuffed him. i was at his arraignment and on top of the mental health dept at the jail. i was able to get him 1 days worth of medication. there's so much more to this story. the police (and i work with them as a dispatcher) are not trained with mental illness. and i know that for a fact where i work. neither are the 911 operators... something needs to be done. i am in the process of suggesting seminars to my commissioner of police so these things dont happen. good luck to anyone going through this nightmare. it's overwhelming for me. even families dont quite understand it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, but so worth reading
This book expresses the frustration with the mental health system in America. It is so well written that as you read it, you want to help the author so badly! Read more
Published 2 days ago by Denise
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for informing people of the very difficult situation many with...
The author brings to light a serious problem with America's healthcare system, that apparently only those dealing with mental illness (of their own or of a loved one) will ever be... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Charles Wagner
5.0 out of 5 stars Been there
This fathers experience aligned beautifully with the experience of millions of people whose lives are affected by mental illness. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Diane Simms
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone needs to read this book
Earley puts the challenges the mentally ill and their family's face into a compassionate light. He is honest and open. Earley's writing style is clear and fluid.
Published 29 days ago by James Bounds
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction
This book gives a good overview of mental health as a system, and as a personal story. An easy read.
Published 2 months ago by Michael Hoyt
5.0 out of 5 stars I relate!
Dealing with similar issues with my sister. The author helped me understand how mental health laws have become so twisted. We need Congress and the Enate to read this!
Published 2 months ago by Magda Kuhn
5.0 out of 5 stars Compellingly written investigation of the frightening reality for...
Pete Earley is a terrific crusader for real rights for people with mental illness. He is compassionate and understanding. Read more
Published 2 months ago by KReader
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crazy System
Pete Early writes about his son's experience with bipolar disorder and how disconcerting the whole ordeal was, both for him and his son. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jane Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars Very educational
This book was a real eye opener. I truly enjoyed it. I feel it's a must read. Metal health is an issue we all should be aware of.
Published 3 months ago by Chrissy Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening page turner
This book is written so well that you neither want to nor need to skip a word. It's a rare look inside this world that most of us have never seen. As a parent, it's scary as hell. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Han
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I've had mental illness and it's been a battle to find competent help
I agree that those suffering from bipolar II and major depression often know that they need help. However the society still doesn't regard such common disorders as major depression as real as let's say diabetes. Often when I mention my friends and acquaintances that I cannot drink alcohol since I... Read more
Nov 27, 2007 by FreeThinker |  See all 2 posts
One of the Best
According to Mr. Earley's book, Deidra Sanbourne died of a bowel obstruction while being treated in a psychiatric hospital. Her death could have been caused by the medication Clozapine, used to treat schizophrenia and known to cause bowel obstructions.
Sep 15, 2011 by Maria A. Mangicaro |  See all 2 posts
How do we distinguish pathological shades of mental delusions ? Be the first to reply
10 suggestions for family members Be the first to reply
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