Customer Review

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matter-of-fact, evocative, and enlightening, February 17, 2011
This review is from: Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son's Story. (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. What he doesn't necessarily always realize - but what becomes clear to his family (and to the reader) - is that this is a life sentence.

One particularly valuable service this book does is to underline the injustices associated with mental health problems, especially schizophrenia. Various truths are highlighted, including the fact that the media often demonize sufferers as violent (statistically, very few are), that society in general often treats them with disregard (at best), and that sufferers are far more likely to be dismissed from their jobs than if they were suffering from a physical condition.

Given the downbeat quality of the story and many of the associated observations, it is tempting to wonder if there can be any chance of the book ending on a positive, uplifting note. I won't give anything away, but I will say that the reader does NOT finish the final chapter with a sense of desolation. Instead (for me, anyway) there is a sense of worthwhile insight bordering on enlightenment.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 14, 2011 4:30:52 AM PDT
Rossa Forbes says:
I have yet to read the book, still hoping it will come out on Kindle. I have read many of the reviews elsewhere, but will not comment on the book until I read it. That being said, I strongly take issue with your comment that schizophrenia is a life sentence. Please think about who actually benefits from the promotion of this idea. It certainly isn't the individual or the families. It is pharmaceutical companies and the mental health "community" of careworkers, the same groups who promote the erroneous mantra that schizophrenia is a disease just like diabetes. (Retracted by a pharmaceutical company executive in the Whitaker book I refer to below. Error corrected, damage done. Who ever finds out about the retractions?)

I correspond everyday with people who have recovered or consider themselves fully "cured" and the overarching point they make is that recovery happens off the drugs. If you need something other than anecdotal evidence, consider reading Robert Whitaker's book, Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. Unfortunately, everytime somebody makes a remark that there is no cure, and schizophrenia is a life sentence, pharma gains one more customer, "patient" loses one more advocate.

Another error that people make that prolongs mental illness is to consider the person as "mad, " i.e. he's the one with the problem. Most of us never thinking of looking in the mirror that the individual is holding up to us. Schizophrenia begins and ends in the environment of the family. So, for the Henrys of the world, there's plenty of reason for optimism as long as those around them get the idea of schizophrenia and begin to change their perceptions.

Posted on Jul 4, 2011 8:56:32 AM PDT
Surviving Schizophrenia: A Tale of Sound and Fury

The above book is my story, and it is a story of recovery. I would like to draw people's attention to it, and particularly that of the author and co-author of this book, to show that there is hope for the future for those diagnosed with schizophrenia. It need not be a life sentence, as Rossa points out - please do read her blog and look at the website of Duane Sherry (her posts will lead to his website). I have four children and a very busy and sometimes stressful life, and I have not taken any medication for many years, despite having had three separate periods of psychosis and being given a diagnosis of schizophrenia when I was young. I would like young people, such as the 'Henry' of this book, to be able to move forward unhindered by this unhelpful label. For further information, please see my blog, 'Schizophrenia at the Schoolgate' which until very recently was written anonymously. Louise Gillett.
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