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My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill Paperback – June 28, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer by day who teaches history at the College of Western Idaho at night. His work has been cited in U.S. Supreme Court decisions, as well as in dozens of decisions from federal appellate courts and state supreme courts. He lives in Idaho.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1477667539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1477667538
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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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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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