Agnes’s Jacket

March 9, 2011

This book is fantastic. Remember I promised to write about it in this post here ?

The premise of the book is that “Madness is more code than chemistry. If we want to understand it we need translators — native speakers, not just brain scans.” Gail A. Hornstien, the author of this book is a professor of psychology. She uses personal accounts of madness to teach, despite her colleges being unable to fathom the benefits of this unique perspective. Parts of it are academic but all of it is accessible to the average reader, which is one thing I love.

She does a great job of exploring all areas of life and analyzing them as she brings it back to this core concept. Personal stories, science, methods and data, social reform, ideas of different countries, islands of free thought within these countries, and the control of pharmasudical companies are just a few of the areas she addresses in her book. My favorite parts by far, though, are the stories of recovery. And the information about the treatment centers doing things differently are like recovery stories only on a larger scale.

The people who are trying things differently and finding ways that work are often remarkably humble. Usually they say something like “Take what works from this program and improve upon it, we don’t want you to just transplant our program to your cities because there might be flaws or better ways of doing things that need to be discovered.” A repeated theme is that treatment plans need to be as flexible and unique as the people they’re trying to help.

Follows her questions with sincerity brings her to remarkable places, Hornstein finds much far beyond her initial expectations. Her chapters on the freedom centre’s hearing voices group only furthered my resolve to visit one day. Some of it is difficult to read, I would have to set the book down and come back to it when I wasn’t about to cry or punch a wall.

I’m nearly finished with it. See? And yes, that is a scrap of fabric I’m using as a bookmarker.

If you want to know more about the jacket itself, which is equal parts fascinating and heart breaking, the lulu bird has written a lovely post (not to mention, click on the photo once and then again when you’re at flicker and you shall find an amazing collection of photos from that trip.)

I highly recommend this book.


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