Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness

Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness

4.5 23
by Pete Earley
     
 

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Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor's house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.

This is the Earley family's compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy

Overview

Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor's house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.

This is the Earley family's compelling story, a troubling look at bureaucratic apathy and the countless thousands who suffer confinement instead of care, brutal conditions instead of treatment, in the "revolving doors" between hospital and jail. With mass deinstitutionalization, large numbers of state mental patients are homeless or in jail-an experience little better than the horrors of a century ago. Earley takes us directly into that experience-and into that of a father and award-winning journalist trying to fight for a better way.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Suffering delusions from bipolar disorder, Mike Earley broke into a stranger's home to take a bubble bath and significantly damaged the premises. That Mike's act was viewed as a crime rather than a psychotic episode spurred his father, veteran journalist Pete Earley (Family of Spies), to investigate the "criminalization of the mentally ill." Earley gains access to the Miami-Dade County jail where guards admit that they routinely beat prisoners. He learns that Deidra Sanbourne, whose 1988 deinstitutionalization was a landmark civil rights case, died after being neglected in a boarding house. A public defender describes how he-not always happily-helps mentally ill clients avoid hospitalization. Throughout this grim work, Earley uneasily straddles the line between father and journalist. He compromises his objectivity when for most of his son's ordeal-Mike gets probation-he refuses to entertain the possibility that the terrified woman whose home Mike trashed also is a victim. And when, torn between opposing obligations, he decides not to reveal to a source's mother that her daughter has gone off her medications, he endangers the daughter's life and betrays her mother. Although this is mostly a sprawling retread of more significant work by psychologist Fuller Torrey and others, parents of the mentally ill should find solace and food for thought in its pages. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Like Paul Raeburn in Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest To Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children, former Washington Post reporter Earley (Witsec: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program) penetrates the American mental health system in an effort to discover how he can save his son, Mike, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after suffering a breakdown during his senior year in college. Mike's situation escalates when, delusional, he breaks into a home to take a bubble bath and runs up against the criminal justice system. Appalled by the barbarous illogicality of laws that allow mentally ill people like Mike to be punished yet languish untreated, Earley visits prisons, courthouses, hospitals, and assisted-living facilities to explore his options and to expose "mental health madness." In particular, he criticizes the deinsitutionalization movement that released masses of the mentally ill from hospitals and abandoned them to the streets. He also advocates the reform of laws that permit mentally ill patients to refuse treatment and/or medication, even though illness impedes their ability to make competent decisions regarding their own health. Highly recommended for all public and university collections.-Lynne Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Seasoned investigative journalist Earley (Super Casino, 2000, etc.) splices together the story of his son's alarming brush with the law and a report on our society's criminalization of the mentally ill. The author was so upset by what happened to his son after he was arrested for breaking into a house while in a delusional state that he set out to discover just how the mental-health system works in America today. What he found is that the new insane asylums are prisons, neither safe nor humane places. In Miami-the city was chosen for Earley's investigation because it has a high percentage of mentally ill residents-the author was given wide access to the Miami-Dade County Jail. He spent a year there observing how mentally ill prisoners are treated. He followed their cases through the courts and traced their progress once they were back on the streets. Earley also interviewed a Miami judge, lawyers, psychiatrists, patient advocates and the founder of a halfway house. He draws a bleak and disturbing picture. The closing of state mental hospitals that began in the 1960s left most patients homeless and without access to the community services that were supposed to form their new safety net, he reports; by the 1990s, jails and prisons were being swamped by psychotic prisoners. Society has gone backwards in it handling of the mentally ill, he argues, and we must develop modern long-term treatment facilities where they can be helped and kept safe. The author's own frustrating experience with his son convinced him that commitment laws are heavily biased in favor of patients' civil rights and against intervention and treatment; he urges bringing doctors and patients' loved ones back into thedecision-making process. An urgent plea for change that gains force by putting a human face on a sociological problem.
From the Publisher
[A] clarion call for change and justice, and an enthralling portrait of a father who refused to surrender. (Bebe Moore Campbell)

Takes readers on a harrowing personal journey... (Senator Pete V. Domenici [R-N.M.] and Nancy Domenici)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781440628818
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/03/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
158,168
File size:
404 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
[A] clarion call for change and justice, and an enthralling portrait of a father who refused to surrender. (Bebe Moore Campbell)

Takes readers on a harrowing personal journey... (Senator Pete V. Domenici [R-N.M.] and Nancy Domenici)

Meet the Author

Pete Earley, a former reporter for The Washington Post, is the author of seven works of nonfiction, including the bestsellers The Hot House and Family of Spies, and the multi-award-winning Circumstantial Evidence. According to the Washingtonian magazine, he is one of ten journalist/authors in America "who have the power to introduce new ideas and give them currency." Earley is also the author of two novels.

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Crazy 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Butterblume More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading his book. It took me a few months to get up the strength to do it. Having read a few books about this difficult subject I knew this would not be an uplifting, easy read. This was a very good reminder why I am fighting so hard and why I need to keep fighting for my son until the day I die. I tell myself quit whining, this is the new normal. I¿m always asking myself what will be my next goal to help my son; unfortunately no one is really available to consult. Yes, a lot of people think they know better and hand out advice, but they are not there when the tough decisions have to be made, these are almost always made alone in the dark. This book is a great reminder not to give up. Wishing everyone reading this that they will never, never have to personally experience the frustration, heplessness, anger and exhaustion in dealing with a system that is stacked against the seriously mentally ill.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having worked within the mental health system for years, I found this book interesting, but also, unfortunately, just a confirmation of what I have been watching throughout my career. Our system is very broken! A review on the back cover of the book indicates that this is a great book for families 'of seriously mentally ill people' to read - but the reality is that, while they may find the book interesting, they aren't the ones who need to read it - they live it every day. It's our lawmakers and 'human rights advocates' who need to read it, as they are who can influence the changes that need to be made.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pete Earley has written a frighteningly accurate account of how the mentally ill are treated in our society. As someone in the field, I found it accurate and overwhelmingly sad. Not only are the rights and care of those with mental illness really not being provided for, neither are those of the average citizen to be safe from those with mental illness and violent tendencies. It's a lose-lose for all of us. Loved the book even though it's heartbreaking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ship it.
Patito_de_Hule More than 1 year ago
When Pete Earley's son was diagnosed with schizophrenia Earley was devestated. His son's potential career was on the line, he wasn't willing to accept treatment, and he was generally unpredictable and very unsafe. When Earley tried to get his son into the hospital, his son was turned away because he didn't want to be treated - and laws say that unless someone is an immediate threat to himself or others, he can not be treated involuntarily. Earley had to pretend his son was a threat to Earley's well-being to get his son hospitalized. Then Earley went to a commitment hearing to make sure his son stayed in the hospital until he was better. Early was appalled by his son's defense lawyer who did her best to defend Earley's son despite his son's clear mental illness. In her own defense, the lawyer said it was her job to defend the rights of someone who did not want to be committed. Earley's son won the case and was released. After this incident, Earley's son broke into a house, peed on the carpet, turned over the all the photographs, and took a bubble bath. He was arrested and charges were filed against him by the family. Despite Earley's pleading with the family that his son was not targeting them specifically, that he was sick, the mother felt threatened and continued to press felony charges. Earley knew that the charges would be an irremovable bar from his son's career choice. Because of the horrors of being unable to treat his son, and the unfairness of the charges, Earley decided to research the state of the mentally ill in the Miami jail system. There are, according to the staff psychiatrist, "a lot of people who think mentally ill people are going to get help if they are in jail. But the truth is, we don't help many people here with their psychosis. We can't. The first priority is making sure no one kills himself." The psychiatrist said that the point of the prison was to dehumanize and humiliate a person. Such treatment is counter to improving anyone's health. Early did a fantastic job of reporting the horrors of how mentally ill are treated in prison, and about the money wasted due to unnecessarily lengthy time in jail without trial, and high recidivism rate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this book was amazing. I got it from a Psychiatrist I work for and I never knew the struggles people had to go through to help an ill family member that did not think they had a problem. Since this book was written, I hope a lot has changed in the legal system but I don't believe that it has. I would highly recommend this to anyone who works in the field or has a family memeber with a mental illness.
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Paula Gehl More than 1 year ago
very personal look at not only our system of dealing with mental illness in America, but how it affects a family. Nobody should ever have to know the pain associated with these illnesses, and the sadness that comes with the process of attempting to parent through it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LindaKE More than 1 year ago
This book describes the difficulties that many people with mental illness have. It details the challenge that some mentally ill people experience with the criminal justice system. Our criminal justice system does not always have adequate facilities and treatment for the many often untreated mentally ill who end up arrested and charged with crimes. Sometimes the mental illness prevent good judgement or even awareness of how the event breaks the law. As a mental health professional who is involved with a local jail I found it described our local situation at least in part.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is so well written, so interesting, and such an inspiring yet, angering book. A look into the criminalization of the mentally ill should get anyone and everyone thinking about how we treat those that are suffering. Great job Mr. Earley, I plan on reading more of your books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well written and very informative. If you work with the mentally ill or want to learn more about the mental heatlh system this is the book to read. This is a great book for someone who is just learning about mental health and those who already know something.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. I only stopped reading it when I slept and was at work (even then I sneaked a chapter in). If you're interested in Mental Illiness as much as I am, you'll love this.