Book Review: “Psych Ward Chronicles”

psych

Cover image of “Psych Ward Chronicles” by True George

Disclaimer: Author True George periodically comments on my blog and asked me to review his book Psych Ward Chronicles.

It’s only about fifty pages long and I read a version in PDF format. The book was originally a series of observational notes George took during his time as an intern at a New York City inpatient mental institution. It’s state run, and George covers chapters on topics such as “Side Effects,” “Liaisons,” “Readmitted,” “Race Card,” and “Accusations.”

My first observation is that the book needed a lot of editing. This happens sometimes when you self publish and you’re going over your own stuff without a second pair of eyes.

The second observation is that it was rather dry. I did something I almost never do when I’m preparing to review a book. I asked George additional questions about it after I read it. I wanted to be clear about the intent.

He said that there’s an earlier version of the book on his blog, and he removed the profanity, which I suspect also reduced the sense of drama and humanity. There are a few snippets of dialog, but I think his work would have been more powerful if he’d let the voices of the patients and the staff come through more.

Of course, the “distance” he maintained may have been deliberate. After all, you don’t necessarily want any of the subjects of the book to read it and recognize themselves, though I’m sure the names were changed to protect the innocent.

If you know nothing about the dynamics of an inpatient psychiatric facility or the dynamics of the chronically mentally ill, this will be a real eye opener for you.

I have a Masters in Counseling and fifteen years of clinical experience before I changed careers, so I was pretty familiar with most of what was written.

Given my penchant for fiction, I probably would have dramatized the notes, fictionalizing them so that I’d be more free to express the voices of those involved, but that’s just a personal preference. Reading “Psych Ward Chronicles” will still give you a series of snapshots on life in such an institution. It’s a sense of hopelessness in a lot of cases, not only because certain disorders never get better, but because even when patients are capable of leaving and having a life outside, often they are so institutionalized that they won’t let themselves go.

It’s not a happy life, and in many ways it’s just as hard on the staff as it is on the patients.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: “Psych Ward Chronicles”

  1. I’m sure it is as hard on the staff and carers as it is on the patients. I know it was hard on my parents trying to care for my brother with severe paranoid schizophrenia – in the end, I’m afraid we couldn’t look after him (he was too violent for my ageing parents) and he had to end up going into care.

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    • Many years ago, my wife and I knew a couple who had a schizophrenic son. Mental illness is no one’s fault, but he was also violent toward his parents and sister. It broke their hearts to institutionalize him, but it was hell trying to take care of him at home when at any time, he could try to hurt them.

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      • Perhaps. As a young man, I was an intern at a County Adult Mental Health Outpatient facility. I remember interviewing a schizophrenic man in my tiny office with his wife cowering in a chair in the corner. He was pacing back and forth ranting about his various delusions, and he was a pretty big guy. I felt so sorry for his wife, who loved her husband but obviously feared him.

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      • I wonder how she married him? She must have seen what he was like. I’m sure I couldn’t live with a schizophrenic as I have literally no patience – I’m also easily drawn into arguments.

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      • I remember nothing of the people except for that scene, which is etched in my recall. How do any two people find each other and how do things change so much over the long passage of time?

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      • I suppose many cases of schizophrenia are progressive but my brother’s has been pretty much the same all his life so you can easily see what he’s like. Mind you, when he’s having a good day, he can be very charming indeed!

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