When readers first meet Ben, he is a sweet, intelligent, seemingly well-adjusted youngster. Fast forward to his teenage years, though, and Ben's life has spun out of control. Ben is swept along by an illness over which he has no control—one that results in runaway episodes, periods of homelessness, seven psychotic breaks, seven hospitalizations, and finally a diagnosis and treatment plan that begins to work. Schizophrenia strikes an estimated one in a hundred people worldwide by some estimates, and yet understanding of the illness is lacking. Through Ben's experiences, and those of his mother and sister, who supported Ben through every stage of his illness and treatment, readers gain a better understanding of schizophrenia, as well as mental illness in general, and the way it affects individuals and families. Here, Kaye encourages families to stay together and find strength while accepting the reality of a loved one's illness; she illustrates, through her experiences as Ben's mother, the delicate balance between letting go and staying involved. She honors the courage of anyone who suffers with mental illness and is trying to improve his life and participate in his own recovery. Ben Behind His Voices also reminds professionals in the psychiatric field that every patient who comes through their doors has a life, one that he has lost through no fault of his own. It shows what goes right when professionals treat the family as part of the recovery process and help them find support, education, and acceptance. And it reminds readers that those who suffer from mental illness, and their families, deserve respect, concern, and dignity.
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I'm glad I listened to Ben's story!
- Mitzi McCall
Interesting, if repetitive, look into this world
Schizophrenia is something I find inherently interesting but haven't read a full book about before. Memoirs are often written by people with schizophrenic mothers (apparently such people make horrible parents which makes for good memoir material). “Ben” was a high achieving popular type whose crashing and burning was that much more tragic for those around him because of the high expectations you have for such people. When this author discusses the grief for the child you had who is now gone it hit a personal cord for me as an Autism parent. All of us grieving for these people who would never exist after all. There are other similarities as well - the medical types telling you nothing is wrong when you know it is, all those horrible episodes of hoping for things to improve. How you have to educate yourself so much and encounter doctors etc. who know less about it than you do. And how people don't necessarily support the family in the way that they would the family of a cancer patient. Though I will give it to the schizophrenia families that they definitely have worse stigma than us autism families. People probably move away from this family in diners even more than they do from mine. ;-)
In regular schizophrenia, people's lives fall apart when they are teens or young adults. This seems especially unfair somehow. Like parents could maybe begin to relax at that point. Of course I guess it'd be worse if it started earlier And of course parents never really get to relax no matter the age of their kids. Things can go along fine for years and then your 20 year old can start using heroin. All strain and tragedy is relative.
The end of the book is less interesting I guess because Ben’s hospitalizations get repetitive. But of course that's part of the point.
- Karen "Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty."