Committed to the Sane Asylum
Narratives on Mental Wellness and Healing
Paper 320 pp.
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Online discount: 50%
Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine 2009 Book of the Year Award in the Psychology Category
In Committed to the Sane Asylum: Narratives on Mental Wellness and Healing, artist Susan Schellenberg, a former psychiatric patient, and psychologist Rosemary Barnes relate their own stories, conversations, and reflections concerning the contributions and limitations of conventional mental health care and their collaborative search for alternatives such as art therapy. Patient and doctor each describe personal decisions about the mental health system and the creative life possibilities that emerged when mind, body, and spirit were committed to well-being and healing.
Interwoven patient/doctor narratives explain conventional care, highlight critical steps in healing, and explore varied perspectives through conversations with experts in psychiatry, feminist approaches, art, storytelling, and business. The book also includes reproductions of Susan’s mental health records and dream paintings.
This book will be important for consumers of mental health care wishing to understand the conventional system and develop the best quality of life. Rich personal detail, critical perspective, clinical records, and art reproductions make the book engaging for a general audience and stimulating as a teaching resource in nursing, social work, psychology, psychiatry, and art therapy.
Artist and writer Susan Schellenberg began her career as a public nurse. In 1980, she committed to healing from a 1969 psychosis and ten-year course of anti-psychotic drugs and to keeping a visual-art and written record of her dreams and inner journey as her mind healed. Susan’s Shedding Skins, dream art with text, is on permanent exhibit in the main lobby at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
Psychologist Rosemary Barnes has worked at Toronto General and Women’s College Hospitals and been affiliated with the University of Toronto, York University, and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She has published on suicide, HIV conditions, and residential schools, and has provided expert opinion in legal cases relating to lesbian/gay issues and trauma. She is currently in independent practice.
“Committed to the Sane Asylum is much more than a biography of mental illness. It elaborates on a very personal theme and, through a variety of means, makes it universal. There is straightforward narrative set against historical events—1969 to the present. The reader is permitted a look at confidential hospital records and is privileged to see representations of imagined reveries conveyed by a gifted artist. We read extensive dialogues with experts. There are numerous quotations. In addition, there is a parallel story of a mental health professional who experiences and relays the changes in diagnostic perspectives, dynamic inferences, causal attributions, and psychotherapeutic stances that have evolved in the field of mental health, for better or for worse, over the last forty years. This is psychobiography with a difference, written and illustrated by talented contributors to a landscape in need of exploration.”
— Mary V. Seeman, OC, MDCM, DSc, Professor Emerita, University of Toronto
“What sets this book apart is the insight it provides into patience and clinician experiences in the parallel and often overlapping narratives. Schellenberg and Barnes have never had a patient-clinican relationship, but their identities as each inform their friendship, and their experiences individually and together fuel each other’s transformation. This is a story of people exploring their past in a quest to understand who they are and where they are headed.... War is a metaphor for madness in this book—the problematic approach to recovery depicted as an epic battle against unwanted parts of oneself. Schellenbert and Barnes’ stories advocate exploring and embracing ourselves wholly. Schellenberg shares pages from her files as a psychiatric patient, which, she says, allows the medical professionals she interracted with to tell their side of the story. Reading the charts is surreal. It is gut-wrenching to see the impersonal nature of the notes, and to realize the profound impact that these superficial, subjective observations had on Schellenberg’s life.... The book is compellingly frank and accessible. The stories are intensely personal. Schellenberg and Barnes share with such honesty that it is easy to become immersed. These are stories about truth—the courage to look for it and the healing that comes from embracing it.”
— Jane Shulman, Canadian Women’s Health Network