INSANITY INSIDE OUT by Kenneth Donaldson


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The day the fifteen years went down the drain was December 10, 1956."" That day Kenneth Donaldson, 48, was arrested for commitment to Florida State Mental Hospital by his parents, who were worried that he was having paranoid delusions. Fifteen years, nineteen court petitions and innumerable smuggled letters later, he achieved his release on his own terms, after a truly awesome battle of wills against the horrors of ""custodial care"" and the vindictiveness and stupidity of his doctors. He did more. With the help of two pioneering lawyers, he brought his case to the Supreme Court and won both the first suit for damages ever brought against individual psychiatrists, and a landmark decision that will make possible the release of many thousands of non-dangerous, inadequately treated, and often quite sane mental patients who have been incarcerated against their wills. This book is Donaldson's personal account of Ida struggle to maintain the sanity he believed he'd never lost and an integrity that was unassailable in the face of humiliation, medical blackmail (if he admitted he was sick or accepted debilitating medication, they'd flee him), inhuman physical conditions, the sadism of attendants, and the sufferings of fellow patients. Whether Donaldson was, at one point, actually ""paranoid"" is, from his account, questionable; if he was, it may well have been the natural outcome of an earlier, mistaken hospitalization with damaging electroshock and consequent stigmatization, and surely he was at no time dangerous. In any case, he is a hero. His fierce determination for himself and his unquestioning assumption of responsibility for his fellow patients transcend sanity. His writing style is awkward and powerful, his account of asylum life compressed, flaring, unforgettable.

Pub Date: June 18th, 1976
Publisher: Crown