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Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story Hardcover – February 1, 2011


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Hardcover, February 1, 2011
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Printing edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439154708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439154700
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This sensitive story of a family's battle with schizophrenia looks at the ignorance and stigma that often accompany any mention of mental illness. When Cockburn, a foreign correspondent for the Independent on assignment in Afghanistan, learns his 20-year-old son, Henry, has been institutionalized after trying to drown himself, he tries to understand why his son has had a mental breakdown. The Cockburns, a tightly knit family, are severely tested by the pressures of a loved one undone by his mind and locked away for seven years in a mental hospital. Told in alternate views, both father and son write candidly of the illness, medications, and numerous hospitalizations, along with harrowing descriptions of visions and voices. This straightforward, unsentimental book, is a bold plea for more research and cutting-edge therapies to combat mental illness. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

What to do when the bright and gregarious child you have loved and nurtured suddenly takes to stripping naked and defecating in a neighbor’s yard? Or worse, what if he courts death via hypothermia by swimming in the frigid waters of a nearby river? What could possibly be worse? If that same young man adamantly denies that he is ill and stubbornly refuses all medication that might help him. As a parent you are helpless when your son repeatedly escapes the confinement necessary to prevent him from harming himself. If Patrick Cockburn’s wrenching account of son Henry’s illness is not affective enough, Henry’s guileless divulgence of his personal reality drives home the unrelenting anguish of the families of schizophrenics. More poignant still are the journal excerpts of Henry’s mother, whose nerves are palpably raw from being in the trenches with her son’s illness and a medical community unable to help him. The family Cockburn’s unique take—by allowing Henry a voice in this book—offers valuable insights into mental illness. --Donna Chavez

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Customer Reviews

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This book is a great read and is hard to lay down!
Sunshine
Reading it can help anyone going through the trauma of having a family member with mental illness.
Diane Moore
And so the reader is drawn into the anxiety and bewilderment associated with the situation.
David Austin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David Austin on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a very matter-of-fact book, but it is also an emotionally evocative one. It tells the story of Henry Cockburn (co-author) who is diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 at the age of 20 (while an art student in Brighton, England).

Much of the story is conveyed by Patrick Cockburn, Henry's father, in a considered documentary style. He interweaves explanatory details with narrative account, but what is immediately striking is how little any of the background information on schizophrenia contributes to his (or the reader's) understanding - the condition largely remains a mystery. And so the reader is drawn into the anxiety and bewilderment associated with the situation.

Some parts of the story are narrated by Henry himself, in an almost hurried but extremely arresting style. He talks of experiencing the onset of his condition as a spiritual awakening, with his perspective on the world becoming significantly altered. As some of the events described take place in Brighton - somewhere I'm reasonably familiar with - I personally find it fascinating to see particular experiences unfolding against recognizable backdrops. For instance, there's a vision of the Buddha on Brighton beach, and the planting of a banana tree outside the Concorde 2 music venue. This locatedness - whether in Brighton, Canterbury, Youghal (Ireland), or elsewhere - gives an additional tangibility to these occurrences.

As the story develops, there is a growing sense of the enormity of Henry's condition. There is no quick fix for what has happened; in fact, there is no fix at all. Furthermore, Henry himself is not always convinced that he actually has a problem.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By conjunction on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is written with great care and intelligence. By his own admission Patrick Cockburn knew nothing about schizophrenia when his son Henry was given that diagnosis about ten years ago but he seems to have read everything he could find in short order like the experienced journalist he is and among other things this book contains useful summaries of a variety of theories about the nature of the condition and its treatment. Cockburn is also very frank about the effect of Henry's experiences on his wider family. Perhaps the greatest value for me in the book however is his careful and accurate description of the way people diagnosed with schizophrenia are cared for in this country (the UK). I write as one who worked as a mental health social worker for ten years. For this reason, among others, I would recommend this book to anyone who for whatever reason wants to know about how mental illness is treated.

Cockburn also spells out the agonies carers go through. He states his opinions about various matters trenchantly and I don't always agree with him, especially on Laing and on care in the community. But his views are well put and worthy of careful consideration.

Several chapters of the book are written by Henry who gives a lucid account of his experiences. Like most people who achieve this diagnosis for many years he did not accept that he was ill. It is my belief that the `delusions' suffered by people diagnosed as schizophrenic are as real to them as other people's experience are to them, and I have also found that respecting this is the basis of any real communication with `mad' people. Henry is a talented artist and the way he talks about his communication with trees and other living things evokes a magical if clearly often frightening world.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By CGS on February 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am so glad that the authors wrote this book. I and a loved one also experienced a similar mental break, and cannabis seemed to be a trigger in our case as well. This book should be a great help for those who feel scared and alone when going through such a crisis. I'm no expert in the field of mental health, nor am I a literary critic. I'll leave any nitpicking to others. I did find the use of the word "madness" a bit unsettling to my American ears, but that is a small thing. I would recommend this book to anyone who has been through such an experience, or wants to learn more about the still too mysterious subject of mental illness.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By veracruzlynn on June 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a parent of an adult daughter with autism and mental illness, and son with autism who died of schizophrenia at age 21, I ate this book up--page by page. First, the book illustrates something most books are too squeamish to approach: mental illness is not fought in a few months or a year or two years, and it is not fought gently. It is sweaty, bloody, tiring, day by day, week by week, month and year and maybe years' fight that leaves all of us often sobbing, praying, losing hope, hoping again, sometimes believing, sometimes not, always loving our children, raging at doctors and case managers and cold hearted keepers of services our children need, yet will not give.

Second, this book lets us read Henry Cockburn's defiantly, bravely honest memoir of those years. He explains in Hemingway-like prose that his hallucinations were real, beautiful, and part of his being, his self, and opened him to a new world and new understandings. He shows us that he rejected the meds in order to not lose all of this, even those it meant that he came near death over and over, and later also began to suffer more common, negative hallucinations. Most importantly, this is a valid look at the idea of hallucinations and psychosis as part of one's own being, and belonging to one.

I admit that I wept through this book. I agonized with the Cockburns, and I was surprised to find myself agonizing with Henry--I, with all my trying to understand my children, had never understood them before. This is the greatest gift this book gave me. Thank you Henry--I wish you could meet my daughter as you would be great friends.
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