Ron has suffered from schizophrenia for most of his adult life. My Brother Ron is his story, a book written by his brother – blogger Clayton E Cramer. Schizophrenia is a dreadful thing to happen to anyone, but Cramer weaves another story around Ron and his personal disaster.
On a wider scale the book is an analysis of the deinstitutionalization of mental health care in America, in particular the way patients with serious mental illness were let out into the community. Much the same happened here in the UK and although this is an American story, Cramer draws a few parallels with the UK.
Obviously this isn’t an easy subject for anyone who holds dear the liberty of the individual. Some individuals can’t handle personal liberty through no fault of their own. Cramer is talking of serious mental illness here, mostly schizophrenia and psychosis, biochemical brain illnesses therapy can’t touch. He is not discussing the emotional kind.
Cramer’s book is a remarkably cool, dispassionate and meticulously researched analysis of how mental hospitals in the USA were closed down over a few decades, sometimes for the best of intentions, but certainly with some horrific results.
It isn’t a simple story though, because some people undoubtedly were better off outside mental hospitals and some mental hospitals were inadequate or worse than inadequate. But freezing to death on the streets dressed in urine-soaked rags has been just one consequence of closing mental hospitals. Killing sprees another.
It’s a complex and a morally and legally difficult subject. Cramer’s impressive book surely does an excellent job of telling the story. Available in paperback and Kindle format, it is a very sobering story, but a great read too.