BLUE JOLTS: True Stories from the Cuckoo's Nest by Charles--Ed. Steir

BLUE JOLTS: True Stories from the Cuckoo's Nest

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KIRKUS REVIEW

These firsthand accounts of mental hospital experiences--admission, treatment, release--are enough to cure anyone of a belief in institutional psychiatry. Written primarily by former patients but also by their relatives and staff members of mixed sensibilities, they inscribe the blinkered attitudes and massive injustices perpetrated in the name of therapy. Dr. David Viscott admits a teenager overnight to protect him from a raging family, then loses a fight to discharge him when a hospital research program needs him for their body count. One woman's Catch-22 admission is so agitating that her angered outbursts relieve her depression. A bright-eyed Ph.D. psychologist tries to convince his colleagues that psychotherapy reduces a patient's chances of improvement and ends up in the back ward of a VA hospital. In a particularly creepy entry, D. L. Stannard describes ""harassment therapy""--an inmate is forced to scrub a floor with a toothbrush. Others include examples of Russian dissident ""treatment,"" mindless ECT policies, family therapy that estranges its participants, mistaken identity admissions, and numerous instances of Staff Power vs. patient vulnerability. The most passionate and articulate argument for the right to be different comes from Seymour Krim who observes: ""Ironically, it is the very 'psychotics' in institutions who have unwittingly done the most to initiate a bigger and more imaginative conception of what constitutes meaningful behavior."" There's no pretense of balance in the selection--a lone entry reports on truly helpful therapy--and the dedication to Szasz, along with eleven of his books in the bibliography, further attests to Steir's commitment to voluntary admissions policies for people with ""problems in living"" and an end to drugging and narrow definitions of health.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1977
Publisher: New Republic Books--dist. by Simon & Schuster