Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Breakdown: A Personal Crisis And A Medical Dilemma - Stuart Sutherland

Book Details

Book Title:  Breakdown: A Personal Crisis And A Medical Dilemma

Author: Stuart Sutherland

Publisher: Pinter and Martin Ltd 2010

Source: The local library, they treat me well!

Page Count: 280

Format: Non-Fiction

Genre: Psychology/Medicine

Audience: Those who want or need to learn more about mental illness and the past and current treatments offered by the U.K and U.S.A.

Buy It/Borrow it/Avoid it: Borrow it!

Summed up in one word: Enlightening
Summary of the Book:

Stuart Sutherland has been through hell and back. In his mid 40's Stuart had a mental breakdown, he then spent a decade battling his own manic depression, in and out of mental facilities and trying a vast spectrum of treatments and drugs to heal his mind and get back to normality. This account is written through his own eyes as a professor of psychology, which provides a unique view on whether the hospitals and treatments are actually helping or hindering his own path to recovery as well as those around him.

Breakdown is split into two sections, written over a 40 year period of time from when SS's story was first published in 1976 and the various additions and new content added over the years. The first section is an account of Stuart's journey through the British mental health system, the actual roots of his mental health issues and his eventual cure after trying most of the available treatments in the field of psychology. From Psychoanalysis, through behavioural therapy and eventually cognitive therapy with all sorts of different medications added in to increase the chance of remission.

The second section is overview of each style of therapy or field of psychology, with a detailed analysis at the end of each cluster of chapters on the various fields. The analysis of each therapy goes into whether that therapy is useful in helping cure mental illness or if it actually makes patients worse. SS also includes case studies on each treatment to expand his arguments and delves into whether that treatment worked well in helping his own journey to recovery. 

There are many additional sections included in the second part of this book, they address various topics including how the drugs affect the human brain, whether sexual abuse causes mental illness in adults and how doctors have tried to manipulate the brain itself to try and cure psychosis and neurosis.

The Review:

This is an important book, it sheds light on a world that most of us don't really understand or choose not to get involved with. SS really tries to lift the stigma on the mentally ill and I personally think he does a great job.

The first section of this book is emotionally charged and is heavy on the narrative. It is an honest and open account of one man's pain and struggle to deal with a new world of suffering, neurosis and depression...along with an amusing account of the authors hypomania which brings about some funny stories involving an art gallery and a sex shop. 

My main issue with this section is that it reads at times like a novel which is slightly disorientating and felt like I was reading 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' again. 
But this is only at times and the rest is a disturbing and very real account of SS and his difficulties with analysts who pick him and his psyche apart, medication and its horrendous side affects including cotton mouth, constipation, tremors and heart problems. SS hides nothing, he opens his life to you and shares every tiny detail of his most vulnerable time on this earth and it really drives home the issues facing mentally ill patients and how they are treated both in the hospital and out.

The second section of this book is cut down into 20 mini chapters, each with a clear object of discussion, mostly the different approaches that therapists take with their patients, the issue with each treatment and also the successes of that the field, usually hidden amongst the many failures, though SS believes that cognitive therapy really does help patients improve. I thought that SS having been through this system would make him very biased towards each treatment but surprisingly he keeps his own problems out of it and takes an objective view of each style of treatment, using case studies and many statistics to paint a clear picture of how that style really affects the patients. Then SS goes into the many drugs that are available to the patients and their side affects which span from horrible to very uncomfortably evil. Finally his last section deals with the affects of drugs on the brain, how neurotransmitters are disturbed or controlled by medication, SS also delves a little into whether sexual abuse as a child breeds mental health issues in adulthood.

The main issue with this second section is that the density of the text along with the small font size really for me was very laborious and managed to undermine the flow of the text and my interest as a reader, but only occasionally when the tone of the information was overly clinical and elaborated on a subject that I felt was clear enough already.

Breakdown is definitely a must read book, Stuart Sutherland sets out to paint a clear picture of this world we know very little off, this world of Freud and his psychoanalysis, behavioural therapy and Aaron Beck and his Cognitive Therapy, which hands down he did perfectly. Therapist's don't always approach their work and their patients in the correct way and SS tries to show us where things go wrong and where they go right.

SS's last chapter to me meant the most in this book, he gives the reader 21 helpful tips on dealing with one's own mental health issues or those of a family member, the chapter makes it clear that this isn't written by some guy who knows some stuff, but a guy who knows the real deal.


If you enjoyed this non-fiction review please come to Always Trust In Books to find many others or if fiction is more your thing there are plenty of those too. ATIB is also on Twitter @AlwTrustInBooks, Facebook and Goodreads, please feel free to add, follow or like the blog!!! Have a great day.

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