Book Review: Crazy by Pete Earley
Before getting to the book review, I want to apologize for the length of time since my last post. The rush project at work has been extended. Also, since the end of April, our family has faced a flurry of difficult situations, ranging from annoying (sporadic loss of Internet service) to worrisome (Alan is at risk for not graduating from high school on time next month) to crisis (Alan was in an accident, enduring a few weeks of painful recovery.) Our coping skills have been stretched many different ways, all at once, and it’s not over yet! Fortunately, Nathan has been relatively stable for the last few months, and has not been contributing to our stress.
Most of you probably have been through periods like this. I’m trying to remind myself that this is a snapshot in time. Down the road we’ll look back at this and say, “Oof! That was a colossal mess, but we made it through.”
ANYWAY, those of you who help teens or young adults with mental illness might be interested in reading Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. The author, Pete Earley, is a journalist whose son began showing signs of mental illness while away at college. As his son’s mental condition spiraled downward, Pete tried to get help. And that’s when he confronted the broken “system” for treating the mentally ill. His outrage inspired him to investigate further.
Probably only a quarter of the book is devoted to what happened to Earley’s son (he couldn’t be treated against his will, broke into a house, entered the criminal justice system, and narrowly avoided a jail sentence.)
The rest of the book covers Earley’s investigation into the mental health system. He reviews the reasons mental hospitals were phased out decades ago. With no funding allocated for alternative treatment, thousands of people with mental illness are homeless and/or rotate through the criminal justice system.
Earley visited the psychiatric unit of Miami’s main jail and got to know the inmates, correctional officers, psychiatrist and judges involved. He met the leaders of local NAMI chapters and visited a treatment program that prepares the mentally ill to re-enter the community. The book also discusses the conflict between those concerned with the civil rights of the mentally ill and those trying to treat them.
Injuries or deaths sometimes occur when police officers without appropriate training confront a person with mental illness who is exhibiting unusual or dangerous behavior. The book outlines the success of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for police officers, which has saved money and lives where implemented. Earley advocates for the expansion of this program to all police departments in the US as one step toward improving the appalling mental health crisis in our country.
I read this book last summer. It was given to me by a friend who has had personal experience with mental illness and the criminal justice system. The book made me angry, sad, and ready to write letters and get involved. Charge!
Truthfully, I have not taken action, other than starting this blog and continuing to search for the best possible outcome for Nathan. But the book Crazy underscores one of the main ideas behind Climbing the Cinder Cone: that for better or worse, we parents are on the front lines of dealing with young adults who have mental health challenges. If we can pool our knowledge and experience, we might contribute to better outcomes for our family members and our society overall.