Thursday, October 27, 2011

Law Professor's Memoir of Schizophrenia

Elyn Saks opens her memoir, The Center Cannot Hold, with a scene every law student can identify with: three students working in the law library on a weekend night, trying to get a moot court brief done. But the action moves to something most students don't experience, hallucinations that lead her onto the law school's roof and, eventually, to the state mental hospital, where anti-psychotic medications are forced on her.

The memoir offers a gripping inside look at mental illness and its treatment. Saks was hospitalized in both England (when she was studying at Oxford) and the United States (when she was studying at Yale), and the contrast between the two mental hospitals is striking. Although many psychiatrists think that schizophrenia can only be treated with drugs, Saks has found benefit from a combination of talk therapy and medication.

The book's call number is RC464.S25 A3 2007 at Good Reads. Links: Publisher's page; WorldCat; Amazon.

Saks has not only lived with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, she has also been very successful professionally. Despite that incident on the roof, she finished law school and became an expert in mental health law.

She is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California. When she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, she used the award to establish the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at USC.

(This is another post in our series for Disability History Awareness Month.)

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