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THE DAY THE VOICES STOPPED by Ken Steele Kirkus Star


A Memoir of Madness and Hope

by Ken Steele & Claire Berman

Pub Date: May 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-465-08226-2
Publisher: Basic

An astonishing, terrifying first-person tour through the schizophrenic’s world, from Steele (late advocate for the rights of the mentally ill).

When he was 14, the voices came to Steele: “Kill yourself. . . . Set yourself on fire.” For the next 32 years, these voices plagued him. You’re no good, they would tell him, you should never have been born, it’s time for you to go. The voices overrode the sounds around him. He would hear patches of conversations people were trying to have with him, but mostly it was just the evil, derisive voices suggesting ways for him to kill himself. Not that he didn’t try. He landed in one psychiatric hospital, halfway house, and institution after another—from all of which he would either escape or be discharged or evicted. Abandoned by his family, he lived on the street, where he turned tricks or drank himself silly until the voices got the better of him and he had to go back to the hospital. He received little counseling but plenty of medication—not to mention long stays in a straitjacket. Still, there were those times when he could function, when he held simple jobs, and he had resources enough to seek help during the bleakest hallucinatory times. Then, one day, at the Park Slope Center for Mental Health, he received not just counseling but Risperdal, an atypical anti-psychotic medication. The voices stopped: It is a remarkably powerful moment in the story, written with a combination of awe, appreciation, and grace—the perfect antidote to the grim, urgent tone of the earlier pages. Steele went on to become an important proponent of help for the mentally ill before he died of a heart attack lastt October—a scant four years after the voices were silenced.

A mind-boggling account that will change the way readers respond to mental illness.