SUICIDE: INSIDE AND OUT by David K. & Norman L. Farberow Reynolds


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This book is part of a quiet revolution in the human sciences and the ""helping professions,"" one which is using the tools of courage and awareness to reduce the authoritarian, fearful distance between ""professional"" and ""patient,"" ""experimenter"" and ""subject."" Reynolds and Farberow, young scientists combining the perspectives of psychiatry and sociology, accept subjective experience as a valid and vital source of scientific data. Their study focuses on what it is like to be a suicidal patient under close observation in a locked ward of a Veterans Administration hospital; their method is what they call ""experiential research."" To wit: Reynolds, after coaching worthy of an actor preparing for a difficult role, got himself admitted to the ward as a severely depressed, suicidal young veteran. The heart of this book is the journal he reconstructed from his day-to-day notes during his two weeks in the hospital. He brought back a poignant first-hand awareness of what kinds of simple human contact, respect, and privacy further a patient's recovery; what kinds of depersonalization and humiliation set him back; how many psychiatric ""symptoms"" are in fact rational adaptations to institutional irrationality; and how much human fellowship and support exists among the ""disturbed."" But his most striking finding is the malleability of human identity, its responsiveness to situation and expectation: Reynolds often felt himself to be the patient ""David Kent."" The study is valuably set in the general context of other ""experiential"" accounts of mental-hospital life, and it is balanced by a more conventional ""outside"" study of the role structure of the ward. This blend of intellectual caution with personal risk and compassion is the kind of science that points the way to the future.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Univ. of California Press