Biographical Accounts of Mental Illness

Cronkite,Kathy. On the Edge of Darkness. New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1994.

Earley, Pete. (2006). Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. New York: Berkley Books.

A former reporter for the Washington Post, Pete Earley, tells of his experience raising a son with bipolar disorder. After his son’s run-in with the law during a manic episode, Earley began to learn about the criminal justice system’s treatment of people with mental illness.  He writes about the dilemma faced by those with mental illness who break the law and are given jail time instead of treatment.
Hinshaw, S.P. (2002). The Years of Silence are Past: My Father's Life with Bipolar Disorder. New York: Cambridge University Press.

This is a narrative about a man's struggle with Bipolar Disorder written from the perspective of his son. It recounts the 75 years of this father's life, and his father's experience of several misdiagnoses. Intertwined are themes of self-image, causes of mental disorders, accurate diagnoses, and appropriate treatment.

Patty HearstHolman, Virginia. Rescuing Patty Hearst. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.

Rescuing Patty Hearst is an unflinching account of the dark days during which Holman's family was held hostage by her mother's delusions and the country was beset by the folly of the Watergate era. It is a startling memoir of a daughter's harrowing sojourn in the prison of her mother's mind. And, finally, it lingers as a moving portrait of a young woman defined by her mother's illness - until at last she rekindles a family love that had lost its way.
Lew, Henry, R.  In Search of Derwent Lees.  Victoria, Autstalia:  Author, 1996.

        This book presents information about and examples of the artwork of Derwent Lees, a successful
        Australian artist who also experienced severe mental illness and spent his final years in an asylum.
        Relatively little information is provided about his mental illness, and his life history is not described
        in great detail.  The emphasis is on his art, with numerous illustrations of his paintings.

Lyden, Jacki. Daughter of the Queen of Sheba: A Memoir. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
My Sister's keeperMoorman, Margaret. My sister's keeper. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992.

This is the story of two remarkable sisters and their bond, as they make sense of their relationship in the face of a devastating and heart-wrenching disease--mental illness. Margaret Moorman cannot make her sister's mental illness go away, but she gradually comes to accept it and to understand its harrowing effects.

Nasar, Sylvia. A Beautiful Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Neugeboren, Jay. Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival. William Morrow, 1997.

        The author talks about his close relationship with a brother who developed schizophrenia. The book
        reveals his inspiring and continuing commitment to his brother, Robert, despite the obstacles posed
        by both his brother's severe illness and the inadequate treatment system they encountered.

Penney, D. & Stastny, P. (2008).The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. New York: Bellevue Literary Press.

The Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York, which was closed in 1995, housed over 54,000 mental health patients during its 126 years in operation. After its closing, over 400 suitcases filled with patients’ belongings were discovered in the hospital’s attic. The suitcases held everything from letters to loved ones and photographs, to knickknacks and china sets. The Lives They Left Behind portrays the lives of 10 of these former residents by piecing together written records and the contents of the suitcases they left behind.

Raeburn, P. (2004). Acquainted with the Night. New York: Broadway Books.

Raeburn's memoir of his family's struggle to deal with the mental illness of his children. His son was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and his daughter with depression. His account describes his struggle to hold his family together and to use the resources available to him to save his children's lives.

Mad HouseSimon, Clea. Mad house. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

The author writes of the dark years where here brother and sister were dealing with Schizophrenia. The author also interviewed with hundreds of other siblings of the mentally ill and experts in the field of treatment as well. She confronts the issues healthy siblings face both in childhood and as adults, from feelings of guilt at being well, to overcompensation within the family, to the concern of passing on mental illness to a child.

Thernstrom, Melanie.  Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder.  New York: Penguin Putnam, 1997.

        This book, written by a reporter and graduate of Harvard, recounts the circumstances leading to the
        tragic deaths of two Harvard students--one Ethiopian, the other Vietnamese.  Although not
        specifically about mental illness, the increasing depression of one of the students played a significant
        role in the tragic outcome.  The book documents remarkable gaps in the ability of even prestigious
        and well-endowed universities like Harvard to meet the mental health needs of its students and also
        underscores the importance of sensitivity to cultural differences in responding to the mental and
        emotional needs of students from different backgrounds.

Winchester, Simon.  The Professor and the Madman.  New York: HarperCollins, 1998.

 This is the story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and of Dr. W.C. Minor, who was one of the most prolific contributors to this massive document.  Dr. Minor contributed thousands of words, definitions, and examples of word usage to assist the editor of the dictionary in completing his monumental task in the early 1900s.  Minor was also an inmate of the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he had resided for over 20 years and from which he sent his contributions to Dr. James Murray, Editor of the dictionary.  The Professor and the Madman demonstrates how individuals with even the most severe forms of mental illness may make (and have made) valuable contributions to society.