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My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill [Kindle Edition]

Clayton E. Cramer
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $10.95
Kindle Price: $1.49
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Book Description

Good intentions were not enough: how the decisions of the 1960s and 1970s to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill created a host of severe problems in the United States: homelessness, a dramatic increase in violent crime rates, and the degradation of urban life. While some mentally ill benefited from community-based treatment, for many others, deinstitutionalization replaced often uncaring institutional settings with death by exposure and violence. A category of violent crime heretofore almost unknown--random acts of mass murder in public places--became almost normal.

My Brother Ron tells the history of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in America, but it also tells the more personal heartbreaking story of the author's older brother, who was part of the first wave of those who suffered a schizophrenic breakdown as the old system went away.

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

American started a grand experiment in the 1960s: deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.  The consequences were very destructive: homelessness; a degradation of urban life; increases in violent crime rates; increasing death rates for the mentally ill.

"The story of a promising young man who develops schizophrenia, as told by his younger brother.  The personal narrative is mixed with an account of deinstitutionalization and the shocking decline of public psychiatric services in the United States.  The book is very well written and recounts the heroic efforts the mother to protect and get treatment for her mentally ill son.  Strongly recommended."  -- E. Fuller Torrye, MD, Executive Director, Stanley Medical Research Institute

About the Author

Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho.  His work has been cited in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions as well as numerous decisions of lower federal and state courts.

Product Details

  • File Size: 784 KB
  • Print Length: 217 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008E0LRQE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,092 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a terrific history of society's methods for dealing with the problems of the mentally ill. It explains a great deal of the homelessness problem, especially those who refuse or cannot make use of the society's efforts to help them. It also explains the background to the large overlap between the those with substantial mental illness and those incarcerated for or involved in crime.

Mr. Cramer's emotional energy and motivation for writing the book is derived from his brother Ron's lapse into schizophrenia, which he uses to illustrate changes in mental health paradigms (and the associated personal pain) but it is not primarily about Ron. It is about the history of the various ways, privately and governmentally, that America has dealt with mental illness from colonial times to the present.

Although Mr. Cramer's vocation is primarily software engineer, his avocation is historian, an amateur in the very best sense of the word who has also taught history at the college level. He applies the same depth of research and quality as he did in earlier efforts, which have been cited in a Supreme Court of the United States decision. This is not a dashed-off effort, it is a serious, documented, but very readable history.

At $1.49 for the Kindle version, this is more steal than deal, and well worth your time.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was a medical student in 1962 when I got a summer job working in a VA psychiatric hospital doing routine physicals on the inmates. They were all men and some had been there for years. They were all "chronic hospital cases," as described in this excellent history. Mr. Cramer gives a very thorough history of psychiatry leading up to the introduction of psychiatric drugs that actually worked and the social upheavals of the 60s that led to the emptying of the state mental hospitals. At the time I had my personal experience with the chronic schizophrenic, the deinstitutionalization movement was just getting started. My own days with these patients were similar in many respects to Mr Cramer's experiences with his brother, Ron. Fortunately, none were my relatives and I could go home every night and leave their troubles behind. Still, the experience of talking to them all day was exhausting. My job was to do annual physicals since the psychiatry residents did not want to do so.

This was the height of the psychoanalysis influence on psychiatry. Fortunately, the chief of the service where I was working was a former analyst who realized that Freud had nothing to offer the psychotic patient. He taught me to talk to the sane part of the patient and ignore the "crazy" part. The early drugs, like chlorpromazine (Thorazine), allowed much better interaction with these chronic schizophrenics. Some of them explained what it was like to be "crazy," their preferred term. I witnessed Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) and saw the "lucid interval" that often followed the session. The patients usually lapsed into psychosis again after a few hours but the desire was to try to prolong the effect and this led to repeat sessions.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What happened to the Homeless ? July 14, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I always blamed Nixon for all the homeless. Working my way through college made me very intolerant of bums and panhandlers. I then fell in love with a woman who was mentally ill and homeless. For the next ten years I did everything I could to help (rescue) her. To no avail except damage to me and a perpetuation of her problems.
My Brother Ron clearly reflects the pain and futility that those that love the mentally ill go through. Within this framework he developes the history and tragedy that is the current situation. Clarity and scholarship are rarely combined as well as in this book.
A "must read" for everyone who cares about others.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping history July 26, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Clayton Cramer brings his world-class archival-research skills to bear on a problem that's bedeviled the Cramer family personally, and society in general, for decades. The problem is seen by different members of the public through different facets of a prism, and gives rise to questions like "What do we do about the homeless?" or, closer to home, "How do we get help for a mentally ill family member?"

There are many more questions than answers, and many myths are loose in the world. The place to begin, then, is on the firmament of solid facts, and that is where this book begins, with facts and history solidly underfoot, so at least at the end we know what we know, and have a better grasp of just what it is that we don't know or understand.

Cramer's archival prowess was developed and displayed on his previous book, and during his epic battle with celebrity historian Michael Bellesiles (which ended with Bellesiles unmasked as a fraud, his professorship at Emory given up, and his Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious in academic history writing, revoked).

I have long believed that deinstitutionalization was a classically bipartisan American screw-up. Liberals were concerned about the civil rights of the mentally ill, conservatives were disturbed by their drain upon the public fisc, and those two admirable motivations yielded the current mess, with uncared-for wretches exercising their rights to live in chaos and squalor, and to die premature and often violent deaths.

Cramer made me see that while that view works as a framework, it's the crudest of oversimplifications. The problem of the mentally ill is an extremely thorny one that does not fit well in American medicine (where's the cure?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cramer does a great job of discussing the history of mental health...
This is a must-read for anyone who hopes to understand that the tragedy of mental illness and its impact on individuals and families is far too over-reaching to cope with at that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Scarlett O'Hara
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read
I thought that closing the mental hospitals willy nilly without having the community mental health centers up and running first was monumentally stupid, as was the ACLU for pushing... Read more
Published 4 months ago by cindobindo
1.0 out of 5 stars Too much personal opinion.
I didn't like the author's personal opinions/commentary in this. It's not a scholarly book, so you'll be disappointed if you're hoping for one. I couldn't finish it.
Published 4 months ago by jr
5.0 out of 5 stars Loving and compassionate
Very personal and the story of love and understanding between siblings. Very well written and will be used as a resource book to share with other families who have to keep centered... Read more
Published 7 months ago by grace
Easily one of the best books I've read on the subject of De-Institutionalization. The title is backward however. Read more
Published 9 months ago by THE AUTISTIC WEREWOLF
4.0 out of 5 stars good read. fine summation on how we have a ...
good read. fine summation on how we have a mental illness problem more than a gun problem as the majority of recent mass shootings in the past 10 years also prove.
Published 9 months ago by John Jordi
5.0 out of 5 stars Best overview on our most important social problem
Clayton Cramer is an outstanding researcher, as he has shown in his past works. This time he turns his focus on a problem that touches us all, but directly in his case through his... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, moving account
A passionate and thorough recounting of the writer's personal struggles with his ill brother, as well as an overview of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. Read more
Published 10 months ago by a reader from MN
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Researched History, Touching Personal Experience
I grew up in this era of Deinstitutionalization and have many experiences with the consequences, but never really knew the whole story. Read more
Published 10 months ago by D. Kamp
5.0 out of 5 stars I give this five stars because there isn't an option for six.
This book shows the cost of mental illness and deinstitutionalization both at the personal level an for the nation. Well supported with sources.
Published 12 months ago by J Wilson
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