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.