The Day the Voices Stopped: A Memoir of Madness and Hope

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For thirty-two years Ken Steele lived with the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia, tortured by inner voices commanding him to kill himself, ravaged by the delusions of paranoia, barely surviving on the ragged edges of society. In this inspiring story, Steele tells the story of his hard-won recovery from schizophrenia and how activism and advocacy helped him regain his sanity and go on to give hope and support to so many others like him.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In 1999, New York Times readers were struck by a story about Ken Steele, a 51-year-old Manhattan man who had almost single-handedly launched an empowerment project that registered 28,000 previously disenfranchised voters. Actually, that was only half the miracle. The other half was that for a period of 32 years, Steele had suffered heroically under the battering of schizophrenia. The story of his disease and his recovery is truly poignant.
This powerful advocate for the mentally ill has an important story to tell - and anyone who has had a serious mental illness will hear the resounding fear and hope that springs from these poignant pages.
Psychology Today
...offers readers a brilliant look into the darkest of places.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the age of 14, mental health advocate Steele battled the ruthless barrage of voices and hallucinations of schizophrenia. His arduous 32-year struggle is chronicled in this memoir, written with journalist Berman (What Am I Doing in a Step-Family?). Despite his parents' initial reluctance to admit the seriousness of his disorder, Steele, who died last year of heart failure, understood early on that his condition was pushing him ever closer to suicide. Only reading and writing provided him a haven, offering him flights of imagination that temporarily quieted the voices. Instead of seeking proper treatment, his family allowed him to drop out of school and stay idle at home, where he only got sicker. He tried to move to New York from Connecticut; to attend theater school, only to end up in a mental ward, the first of several hospitalizations. Steele then descended into alcoholism, homelessness and exploitation by male hustlers. After AA meetings, drugs, shock treatments and repeated hospitalizations, he eventually triumphed over the illness to fashion a new life. Many readers will be emotionally drained by the time he becomes a nationally recognized spokesman for the rights of the mentally ill and the publisher of New York City Voices, a publication heralding that cause. Steele's sobering yet resonant and inspiring narrative refuses to sugarcoat the tremendous force of this disorder and its stubborn resistance to recovery. (May) Forecast: Advertising in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times should help this book find its audienceschizophrenics and their families, policy makers, mental health professionals and anyone who cares about the mentally ill. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The dictionary defines schizophrenia as "a psychotic disorder characterized by withdrawal from reality, delusions, hallucinations, and disintegration of the personality." But what does it really mean to be a schizophrenic? This moving, first-hand account was written for the layperson by Ken Steele, who suffered from schizophrenia for 32 years. He describes his initial diagnosis at age 14, the subsequent withdrawal of support by his family, the nature of the voices continually prodding him to take his own life, his life on the streets, his experiences with the "revolving doors" of our mental health system, his personal haven in books and libraries, and his struggle with medication until "the day the voices stopped," when he was finally stabilized on Risperdal, one of the new generation of drugs called atypical anti-psychotic medications. Ken, a "survivor," shares his pathos, frustration, and ultimate success in this memoir in order to give hope to other schizophrenics and their families. Until his death from heart failure in 2000, he was an advocate, a nationally known speaker for the mentally ill, promoting their right to vote through his initiative, the Voter Empowerment Project. He also worked as newsletter editor and support group founder at the Park Slope Center for Mental Health in New York City. Because of the alarming number of schizophrenics in our society and the fears and misconceptions related to this disease, this excellent, easy-to-understand book should be required reading for every teen and adult. Category: Biography & Personal Narrative. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Perseus, Basic Books, 258p., ,Lewiston, ME
Library Journal
In 1995, Steele, a schizophrenic, began taking a new antipsychotic medication. Suddenly, the voices that had tormented him for 32 years were silenced. In this posthumous memoir (Steele died of heart failure last year), he describes the paranoia and delusions that afflicted him as he wandered across the United States. He also chronicles his post-medication triumphs: after reading a politician's letter about how the mentally ill don't vote, Steele went on to become a leading activist for the mentally ill, organizing a voter registration campaign in halfway houses and treatment centers. As publisher of New York City Voices: A Consumer Journal for Mental Health Advocacy, Steele encouraged those with mental illnesses to share their stories, and some of these personal accounts are included in the book's final section. Through Steele's eyes, readers see the changes in psychiatric treatment from incarceration in mental asylums to integration into the community made possible by a support network of halfway houses, club houses, clinics, and advocacy programs. In an afterword, Steele discusses recent changes in mental health policy and treatment and outlines future needs if the mentally ill are to become fully functioning members of society. This remarkable, well-written, and inspiring memoir is recommended for all collections. Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Steele (1948-2000) was an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill. Here is his own story of suffering for 32 years from the symptoms of schizophrenia, tortured by inner voices commanding him to kill himself, ravaged by the delusions of paranoia, barely surviving on the ragged edges of society. The day the voices stopped was the beginning of his recovery. Berman writes widely on family relations. The memoir has no index or bibliography. The CiP data shows the subtitle as A Schizophrenic's Journey From Madness to Hope. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
An astonishing, terrifying first-person tour through the schizophrenic's world, from Steele (late advocate for the rights of the mentally ill). When he was 14, the voices came to Steele: "Kill yourself. . . . Set yourself on fire." For the next 32 years, these voices plagued him. You're no good, they would tell him, you should never have been born, it's time for you to go. The voices overrode the sounds around him. He would hear patches of conversations people were trying to have with him, but mostly it was just the evil, derisive voices suggesting ways for him to kill himself. Not that he didn't try. He landed in one psychiatric hospital, halfway house, and institution after another—from all of which he would either escape or be discharged or evicted. Abandoned by his family, he lived on the street, where he turned tricks or drank himself silly until the voices got the better of him and he had to go back to the hospital. He received little counseling but plenty of medication—not to mention long stays in a straitjacket. Still, there were those times when he could function, when he held simple jobs, and he had resources enough to seek help during the bleakest hallucinatory times. Then, one day, at the Park Slope Center for Mental Health, he received not just counseling but Risperdal, an atypical anti-psychotic medication. The voices stopped: It is a remarkably powerful moment in the story, written with a combination of awe, appreciation, and grace—the perfect antidote to the grim, urgent tone of the earlier pages. Steele went on to become an important proponent of help for the mentally ill before he died of a heart attack lastt October—a scant four years afterthe voices were silenced. A mind-boggling account that will change the way readers respond to mental illness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465082278
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 226,383
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 8.07 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Steele was, until his death from heart failure in October 2000, the publisher of New York City Voices: A Consumer Journal for Mental Health Advocacy. He was also editor of The Reporter, the monthly newsletter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill/NYC-Metro chapter, and spokesperson for the National Mental Health Association's "Partners in Care."

Claire Berman is the author of several books on family relations, including Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents (1996) and Making It as a Stepparent (1986). She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Stephen Goldfinger, M.D.


1. Descent into Madness

2. Further into the Abyss

3. The Big City

4. Welcome to Bedlam

5. Caught in the Revolving Door

6. Closing Other Doors

7. Second Chances

8. The Day the Voices Stopped

9. Other People's Stories

Afterword: What Needs to be Done

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012


    The Day the Voices Stopped

    Ken Steele suffers a mental disease of schizophrenia, from the age of fourteen has been taunted by voices of the devil pressuring him to commit suicide, belief in his fidelity of paranoia, drags him to the edges of hell with the demon himself luring him in.
    The Day the Voices Stopped written by Ken Steele and Claire Berman brings an extravagant blow to everyones dream world as Ken throws away his precious treasury of his past thirteen years of joy through a void of nightmare. A life of no peace as he goes through the tyranny of a constant chorus of voices hound him day and night of “Kill yourself....Set yourself afire, they said. As a person who has never heard of schizophrenia, I found this book a breath taker as he tells an insider’s view so accurately that is rarely portrayed compared to an everyday basis. Alone and paranoid he withdrew himself to the rest of the world with fear of going out to public and thought the whole world were talking about him made him drop out of high school at the age of sixteen.
    January 2, 1966, Ken is eighteen years old with no advance from two years past is disowned by his parents with the saying of, “When you turn eighteen, any obligation your mother and I have to you are over.” With no alternative Ken moves to New York which his parents couldn't wait to accept. Ken versus the Demons with Ken zero and Demons one as they had separated him from his parents.
    To me hospitals were always there to help you any way then can but the way Ken was handled made me speechless. Being mentally disabled he enters his first hospitalization at a mental health establishment during his first moths in New York. From hell of being a prostitute to another hell being locked up in isolation with medication makes him inert. With no control he lays there bewildered with no act of going to the bathroom as he is caged in straps with no way out but to give into embarrassment. Laying in bed day after day with his body relieving himself with the only way to be clean was his attendants to hose him off. Relieved from the hospital leads him to live in the streets and picked up by prostitutes to cause him harm until eventually giving his body to gay clubs.
    From there and after leads him to several hospitals of inhumane treatment of overdose of medication, beaten, and attendants of no reform to watch gangs of patients raping Ken changed his world forever. No longer relying on others he has come to point where he takes responsibly for himself and the courage to branch out to recovery brings him to overpower his voices for three decades as the voices receded. Medication may have been part of his recovery but I believe that once Ken took his responsibility to himself he became a new person that the voices accepted and going through schizophrenic he branches out to others with similar diseases becomes a hero as he rose to the challenge of becoming a nationally known advocate of an American hero.
    I truly enjoyed this book and the authors style made the words flow and forming pictures to almost a book of no words. If you truly like biographies of mental disabilities from disabled to the point of recovery like Ken Steele, you’ll find true interest in this book.

    paper ID: 235777666

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  • Posted August 24, 2010

    Couldn't put it down

    I was supposed to read this when class started but I thought I would take a glimpse at it to see what it was like. That was a mistake. For the next four hours, I was hooked! My husband has never read a book in its entirety, but this book he read all in one sitting.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Day the Voices Stopped

    Ken Steele's account of his near lifelong battle with schizophrenia is nothing short of awe inspiring. Before reading this book, I did not know much about schizophrenia. I feel like Ken Steele gave this disease a voice so that others can truly understand the pain and anguish associated with it. Ken also discusses his work in advocating for the mentally ill - he worked hard to give others with mental illness (not just those with schizophrenia) rights and a voice in society. Although, Ken had a traumatic life because of his illness, his story and his advocacy for the mentally ill, I believe, will give hope to those who suffer from mental illness and also call a plan to action to advocate for the mentally ill.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great book for understanding Schizophrenia

    As a Mental Health Professional, I highly recommend reading this book. Although Ken Steele's account of having schizophrenia is not entirely typical, it is very close. Ken Steele, did in fact have schizophrenia and he did in fact develop Schizophrenia relatively young. I found this book to be insightful and thought provoking. It is common for people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, to be cast out from their family and society...Just like Ken Steele. He had auditory hallucinations, which is the most common type of hallucination among people who suffer from schizophrenia. I recommend this book for those who have loved ones with schizophrenia and for those interested in schizophrenia. It is my belief that often the media misconstrues what schizophrenia entails, this book is a great counter as it provides an accurate portrayal of the sever mental disorder.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2009

    A Must Read

    I read the book based on a referral from a friend. Within the first two chapters, I was totally drawn into the dilemma of Ken Steele. I realized I had encountered at least three people in my lifetime with the same ailment. This book provided a better understanding and compassion to group of people we as a society sometimes prefer to ignore. There is a definite need for more recognition and awareness for the mental health issues of our society. There are so many opportunities to unlock the minds and allow them to contribute more to society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2003

    Insightfull Book

    Ken Steele did a great job in writing this book. It helps you to realize how hard life is for those with schizophrenia. As a psychology major, I found this book to be really interesting and very beneficial in my study of this illness.

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