Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nonfiction Wednesday - Henry's Demons

Get a close up look of what its like to be schizophrenic. Henry's Demons gives the poignant story of father and son battling this illness. It looks at the ignorance and stigma that often accompany any mention of mental illness. When Cockburn, a foreign correspondent for the Independent on assignment in Afghanistan, learns his 20-year-old son, Henry, has been institutionalized after trying to drown himself, he tries to understand why his son has had a mental breakdown. The Cockburns, a tightly knit family, are severely tested by the pressures of a loved one undone by his mind and locked away for seven years in a mental hospital. Told in alternate views, both father and son write candidly of the illness, medications, and numerous hospitalizations, along with harrowing descriptions of visions and voices. This straightforward, unsentimental book, is a bold plea for more research and cutting-edge therapies to combat mental illness.

What to do when the bright and gregarious child you have loved and nurtured suddenly takes to stripping naked and defecating in a neighbor’s yard? Or worse, what if he courts death via hypothermia by swimming in the frigid waters of a nearby river? What could possibly be worse? If that same young man adamantly denies that he is ill and stubbornly refuses all medication that might help him. As a parent you are helpless when your son repeatedly escapes the confinement necessary to prevent him from harming himself. If Patrick Cockburn’s wrenching account of son Henry’s illness is not affective enough, Henry’s guileless divulgence of his personal reality drives home the unrelenting anguish of the families of schizophrenics. More poignant still are the journal excerpts of Henry’s mother, whose nerves are palpably raw from being in the trenches with her son’s illness and a medical community unable to help him. The family Cockburn’s unique take—by allowing Henry a voice in this book—offers valuable insights into mental illness. --Donna Chavez 

For the most part this book is matter a fact from the father's point of view, Patrick Cockburn. Some of the account is told by Henry who comes and goes on his medication through this illness. The Cockburns are from Brighton, Canterbury, Youghal (Ireland). As it is, Henry is an artist and it takes him awhile to understand he even has a problem. But he hears voices in the trees and bushes, telling him what to do.

On the other hand, this book shows that most with this mental illness are not violent creatures that sometimes the media likes to demonize. It gives you a first hand look at what a family goes through with someone with this unique life sentence.

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