I recently had the opportunity to read and review Robert Jacoby’s novel, There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes. You can see the review here. I would like to share with you the second part of my exploration into this novel with a guest post from the author Robert Jacoby. I would like to thank Robert for this post and the upcoming interview and book giveaway.
How a Novel Can Jump-Start a Conversation
By: Robert Jacoby
In the U.S., last month was Mental Health Awareness Month. Last week, on June 3, President Obama opened the National Conference on Mental Health. Its stated purpose was to start a national conversation about mental illness. The government even launched a new website, mentalhealth.gov [link to http://www.mentalhealth.gov].
Still, for all the “advocacy” and “awareness” and “facts” that are out there, it seems that mental health issues still very much carry a stigma among friends, family, and colleagues. Tell someone you’re feeling feverish and chilled, and they’ll be happy to recommend any number of remedies (get some rest, drink plenty of fluids, see your doctor, etc.). Tell someone you’re feeling “down” or “out of sorts”….can you?
It’s not much of a conversation.
Part of the problem may be lack of empathy. Many people genuinely struggle to imagine experiences they do not have, or what others are feeling and thinking. If all you have is yourself as a yardstick, your worldview is your “comfort zone,” and it can tend to be limited.
Reading fiction (literature) can help expand a person’s range of experiences. It does this by allowing us to explore human experiences we might never have. And it can deepen our appreciation and understanding of human experiences and, thus, of what it means to be human.
I wrote my novel, There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes, [link to http://www.amazon.com/There-Reasons-Noah-Packed-Clothes/dp/0983969701] in part, to give people an experience they very likely will never have and most probably never thought possible. It’s the story of 19-year-old Richard Issych, who wakes up in an inpatient unit after a failed suicide attempt. The novel follows Richard on his journey over several weeks’ time as he tries to find his way to a place where he wants to live. Along his way he encounters new friends and foes, and re-encounters his family.
The novel tackles serious issues and explores extraordinarily raw emotions in a fictional setting. I wrote it through Richard’s eyes and mind so that I’d be able to focus entirely and intensely on his experiences. In certain parts of the novel I use stream of consciousness and poetic elements to convey Richard’s anguish, confusion, and (yes) wonderment at life and the world around him. I wrote it so that readers could experience something they might otherwise never experience (never want to experience): what it feels like to be a suicide survivor.
Nothing is sugarcoated, nothing is hidden. There are no neat, packaged endings. Life is too complex for that. You’ll need to figure it out on your own, as you go along. It’s what we all do, what each of us must do. I hope my novel can deepen your life experience and prompt real conversations with a friend, a family member, or a colleague.
“Is this how it feels?”
A simple question may be all that it takes.
“No. I mean it: how are you really feeling?”
Author’s homepage: http://robert-jacoby.com/
Author’s Goodreads page, blog, and book reviews: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14571.Robert_Jacoby
Contact the author for interviews, book club events, appearances, etc. at robert-jacoby.com [link to www.robert-jacoby.com].
I finally got around to watching the movie Side Effects starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I was excited for this movie because the trailer led me to believe it would delve into the world of psychiatric drugs and violence.
When I say “review” I really just mean I want to discuss the psychiatric stuff, not the acting, the cinematography etc. This movie was not what I thought it was.
For those of you who have been long time followers you will remember that I was victim of both black box label warnings; suicidality and homicidality while on Prozac and Zyprexa back in 2005. The part of me that has had to listen to “professionals”, psychiatric drug users and non-users tell me that the suicidal and homicidal thoughts I experienced were my fault and not the drugs, was very hopeful that Side Effects would be a movie that brought the very real and extremely important topic of violence caused by psychiatric drugs to the public. This is not what happened.
MASSIVE SPOILER AHEAD! IT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF THE MOVIE!!!! TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!!!
Emily (main character) is a liar. In a scam to get money along with her psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert. Emily was coached by Dr. Siebert on how to be depressed and then took a new drug (Ablixa) and pretended to experience it’s most extreme side effects. Since there is money in psychiatric drugs and their companies, many shares were bought hoping this drug would be a good investment. The money comes in when Emily and Dr. Siebert get their own shares and plan to cash them out when something big happens! That big thing is Emily, while pretending to be sleepwalking (a known side effect), kills her husband. The publicity of the death on this drug allows share holders to cash out and make a lot of money!
So, not only did this movie not address the psychiatric drug violence I thought it would, it continued to make these drugs look like no big deal, and showed the mental illness is a perfect scapegoat for “sane” violence. This movie, in my opinion, perpetuated very damaging myths. Ugh…..
On one happy note though, I would love it if Jude Law was my psychiatrist
My partner’s webshow explores something very close to my heart and that is the issues of psychiatry. His show, Propagator, is a political satire set in world where one company (Propagator Media Corporation) controls all the mass media. Canada is actually close to something like this with Bell Media owning telephone, internet, many television stations, satellite and “cable” for television and newspapers. But, back to my main point. Below is an ad from the Propagator world for an over-the-counter medication called Peace. Have a look!
When I watch the Peace ad I start thinking about how many of us are being told that what we’re feeling is wrong. Whether that be directly from a psychiatrist or indirectly through media and our peers, we end up constantly questioning if we are feeling the right thing, at the right time and in the right amount. Of course if you are not happy and would like to be happier than you are now then you are well within your right to go about finding happiness for yourself.
When we or others believe that we are not emotionally getting it right then the drugs come in. As many of you know it is very easy to get psychiatric drugs. They might as well be over-the-counter like the Peace ad says. Psychiatric drugs are becoming less about health and more about money. On the other hand, some, like Dr. David Healy suggests (in his book Let Them Eat Prozac) that having over-the-counter psychiatric drugs might increase consumer awareness of the effects of these drugs because we have been given more control over our bodies by leaving the decision with us instead of a doctor.
The Peace ad also touches on something else I have found interesting in my research on these drugs. The bottle says “made with real placebo”. Research on psychiatric drugs consists of using a placebo in order to establish a baseline reaction. The research that gets published, aside from being manipulated (for more see Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker) does not include long term outcomes. Researchers rarely perform long term studies because of the cost which leaves us with little evidence of the long term physical and emotional consequences of these drugs. So, what doctors, policy makers and we end up seeing is the Prozac was more effective than the placebo 6 months after beginning the drug and not that one year later many trial participants are not doing well. What Robert Whitaker found was that in the long run these drugs became less effective and the placebo is often actually as effective as the drug at helping or hindering progress in a person. This would be saying that our minds have the ability to heal and destroy us. It is not always about the drug.
On a side note, I think it is amazing that we can use satire and comedy to bring to light serious issues but also laugh at how stupid and silly this life can be.
I’m interested to know what you all think about the Peace ad and your thoughts of the issues I discussed.
There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes
Reviewed by: Kristen, Pride in Madness
Note: I was sent a copy of this novel from the author to review.
There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes by Robert Jacoby is about 19 year old Richard Issych who attempts suicide by overdosing and wakes up in a psychiatric hospital. The novel follows Richard and his interactions with his fellow patients, his doctor , his family and his own mind. The good, the bad and the ugly of the human mind are found within this novel and there is never a dull moment as readers see Richard’s journey from death to life.
I approached this book as an “insider”. I have a history of mental health issues, have attempted suicide myself when I was a few years younger than the novel’s main character and by the same means. I also woke up later on damning myself for being alive although I only ever saw the emergency room. I’m not just judging if Jacoby’s novel is a good read, I’m judging if it is a REAL read.
I found myself nodding, reflecting, sighing and laughing while reading There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes which tells me that Jacoby did his homework and was able to reach into a darker part of the human mind and experience. The side of me that experienced this darkness could empathize with Richard’s adamant belief that he is not as “crazy” as the others around him, his disappointment in how his life had turned out and also the shock of when suddenly waking up in the morning wasn’t so bad. Jacoby also addresses controversial and deep mental health rights issues in the novel which I believe is key to writing a good a piece of individuals with mental health issues. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), isolation, competency and compliance, although not discussed at great length are discussed by the characters and the reader is given a glimpse at how these therapies and policies that are set up to “help” and make a person “better” are actually ineffective, hated, and feared by many of the patients at the hospital.
I am a little confused about a few parts of the plot such as Richard’s visions and what exactly happened at the ending. I can accept though that to read this novel there may need to be some level of strangeness and confusion the same way the experience of extreme emotions and visions can be strange and confusing.
While reading There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes I became drawn to one character in particular: Eugene. He is a man who sees and hears things others cannot and because of this he is deemed the most “crazy” by the other patients and judging by his acceptance that he will never leave the hospital, the staff believe he is “crazy” as well. What I liked about Eugene was that you never heard about him doing something (ie: harming himself or others) that would lead him to be hospitalized. Eugene simply perceives the world differently and for that those he knew believed it best he was removed from society. For me, Eugene symbolizes how not all mental health issues are problems for the person experiencing them but the problem for everyone else.
I call books like Robert Jacoby’s There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes “comfortable reads”. This novel grabbed my attention, I focused on each word, never counting down the pages to the end, each page turn was exciting and I thought of no other book while reading. I recommend this novel to those who have and have not experienced the mental health system and I believe it would serve as a reminder to service providers that there is more to their patients then meets the eye.
I am reading a chapter in Mad Matters called, “Pitching Mad: News Media and the Psychiatric Survivor Perspective” by Rob Wipond (page 254-263 but not all of it is in the Google Books link). He’s talking about how News Media, regardless of evidence, reports mental health/illness in a certain way and it is usually in the way that makes it look bad or continues (ie: violent criminals) with dominant beliefs (mental illness is a disease).
The section that I did further research on is called, “The Beliefs About the Science of Mental Illness”. Wipond says that how psychiatrists have played up mental illness as being the same as a physical illness and psychiatric drugs as being equal to that of insulin for a diabetic leads news producers to think that forcefully drugging or shocking someone is not a civil rights issue. It is not a civil rights issue because many believe in biological psychiatry and drugs and shocks are “treatment” which is where news producers get their ideas.
If we continue with the idea of biological psychiatry Wipond goes on to point out how the evidence for such a thing is unclear and assertions that there is a biological basis for mental illness is “boldly out of sync with actual levels of scientific understanding” (Mad Matters, pg. 258).
Stay with me here. I have a feeling some of you are probably mad at me but I would never make a claim without providing further evidence.
The part that made me stop was the following: “…the American Psychiatric Association’s Research Agenda for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders admits, to date, “not one laboratory marker has been found to be specific in identifying any of the DSM-defined syndromes” and “lack of treatment specificity is the rule rather than the exception.” So in laymen’s terms, we cannot scientifically identify any mental illness, and our treatment strategies are guess work.” (Mad Matters, pg. 258)
I went and found the APA’s research agenda, it’s published on Google Books, and I thought I’d at least try and get more of a context. Here is the full paragraph which includes the above two quotations.
“In the more than 30 years since the introduction of the Feighner criteria by Robins and Guze, which eventually led to the DSM III, the goal of validating these syndromes and discovering common etiologies has remained elusive. Despite many proposed candidates, not one laboratory marker has been found to be specific in identifying any of the DSM-defined syndromes. Epidemiologic and clinical studies have shown extremely high rates of comorbidities among the disorders, undermining the hypothesis that the syndromes represent distinct etiologies. Furthermore, epidemiologic studies have shown a high degree of short-term diagnostic instability for many disorders. With regard to treatment, lack of treatment specificity is the rule rather then the exception.” (A Research Agenda for the DSM V, pg. xviii)
This research agenda was published in 2002 and two of the editors (who write the introduction where the above was found) can be found on the DSM V website. David J. Kupfur is the Task Force Chair and Darrel A. Regier is the Task Force Vice Chair.
So, to put it more simply: the APA, after 30 years, still has no way to scientifically prove that mental illness exists, that many of these “disorders” can occur together which messes with what they scientifically think is going on, these “disorders” come and go and they don’t know why and treatment is guesswork.
So the APA admits that science is not showing mental illness (they are of course not giving up hope which is fine) but then why do psychiatrists keep telling their patients, their families, the media, policy makers and the whole world that there is!?
I know many will talk of brain scans and other such tests but we had that information prior to 2002 and professional psychiatrists involved with the APA and the DSM 5 still say this is not solid. The DSM 5 is actually the most hotly debated edition with many mental health workers abandoning it.
Just sit and think about it. It doesn’t need to be scary.
Rob Wipond’s website: http://robwipond.com/
“‘Mental illness is an illness like any other.’ This brave little slogan has been fighting the stigma of mental illness for eons. Sadly, it hasn’t worked and is unlikely ever to because it’s not true and everybody knows it. Aside from the fact that mental illness is the only illness for which you can be involuntarily incarcerated, it is obvious to all that something goes very wrong when your mind falls into a naturally different category from something that goes very wrong with your pancreas. No one would say that pancreatic cancer is an excuse for bad behaviour, though 40% of respondents in a recent poll said mental illness often is (Canadian Medical Association, 2008, p. 4). And the synonym “sick”, when spoken in anger (You’re sick!- never used to refer to physical illness), is one of the strongest epithets of hate in the language. Also, unlike almost all of illnesses, there is not a single physical test for any psychiatric disorder.”
- Lanny Beckman, founding member of Vancouver’s Mental Patients Association, Mad Matters, pg. 54
Think about this: what if treating mental illness like any other illness is actually what is making the stigma and discrimination worse because we are trying to make it something it is not. Maybe making mental illness it’s own thing is what actually helps promote understanding and well being?
Open your mind and think about it for a minute.
Video: Lanny & the MPA
I say “alternate” for a lack of a better word. Chapter 4 in Mad Matters is called, “What Makes Us a Community? Reflection on Building Solidarity in Anti-sanist Praxis” by Shaindl Diamond. She talks about 3 constituencies she researched in Toronto, Ontario that engage in alternate ways of engaging, politicizing and theorizing about mental health/illness. These constituencies are: the psychiatric survivor constituency, the Mad constituency, and the antipsychiatry constituency. I personally would place myself in the Mad constituency.
What I liked about Diamond’s essay (so far, I’m not finished) is that she broken down each group very well and it has helped give me a better understanding what each group stands for, where I fit in and why it is difficult for the groups to work together.
- heart of the political community
- represents those who are deeply affected by the practice of biological psychiatry and sanism
- Not organized around a shared political ideology
- prioritize connecting with people who have experienced the system and improving the conditions of their lives
- peer support and consciousness raising initiatives are seen as foundations of the community
- major focus on stopping forced psychiatric interventions, ending stigma and discrimination, creating accessible survivor-positive employment, affordable housing options, and other non-psychiatric alternatives
- Examples of psychiatric survivor initiatives: Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses, The Gerstein Crisis Centre and Sound Times
- newer phenomenon within the community
- reflects contemporary complexities, divisions, and theoretical trends
- evolved out of psychiatric survivor constituency
- shift from focusing psychiatric oppression to the development of positive understandings of Mad identity and experience
- Mad is frequently used as an umbrella term to represent a diversity of identities that describe people who have been labelled and treated as crazy
- common emphasis on the oppression faced by people who have been oppressed as crazy
- the term covers a wide spectrum of discourses about madness and liberation
- Central concerns are similar to psychiatric survivors, accessible employment, and affordable housing
- greater emphasis on exploring and celebrating individual experiences of madness and developing Mad culture
- Example of Mad initiative: Mad Pride Toronto
- based on a rich history of resistance efforts
- primary goal is to abolish institutional psychiatry, or to at least undermine its power and authority
- often draw upon the theoretical and empirical work of professionals and academics who are critical of psychiatry as well as personal experiences of psychiatrized people
- main organizing principle is focused on political ideology, not identity politics discourses about shared experience
- open to all who are interested in undermining psychiatric dominance whether they have been psychiatrized or not
- Examples of antipsychiatry initiatives: Ontario Coalition Against Electroshock, Resistance Against Psychiatry, the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault
Third parent interview in the Parenting and Mental Health series on Parents-Space!
D.G. is a mother raising a son with ADD combined with anxiety. The second part of her interview (her experience parenting with a mental health issue will come later)!!!
Please check it out!
By: Amy Dempsey GTA, Published on Fri Apr 26 2013
A person deemed NCR does not get to walk out of the courtroom free to go about their lives as they wish. They are placed under the authority of a provincial review board and sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment until they are no longer deemed a “significant risk.” Some spend more time hospital than they would have spent in jail if convicted of a crime.
- MYTH: Anyone with a mental illness could commit a crime and then claim NCR to avoid jail.
Having a mental disorder is not enough to be found NCR. Anyone who advances the defence has to prove the disorder rendered them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or incapable of knowing that it was wrong. Crimes motivated by compulsive urges, such as paraphilias (sexual disorders), usually do not result in an NCR verdict. Likewise, most sociopaths or psychopaths — now called anti-social personality disorder — would not be found NCR on account of that disorder alone because it is unlikely the disorder would render them incapable of appreciating their actions and knowing right from wrong.
- MYTH: The system is flooded with NCR cases.
It may seem that way because several high-profile cases have been in the news a lot lately, but in reality an NCR verdict is rendered in only two of every 1,000 criminal cases. NCR cases on charges of serious violence are even less common, representing an estimated 8.1 per cent of NCR cases overall.
- MYTH: The system isn’t working. While it is difficult to compare recidivism rates from different data sets, research has consistently shown a stark difference between rates for NCR accused and the prison population. Recidivism estimates for people found NCR range from 7.5 and 20 per cent, while rates for those in the federal prison system range from 41 to 44 per cent.
- MYTH: All mentally ill people are dangerous. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims of violence than people who do not have a mental illness — 2.5 to four times more likely, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.