Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son's Story

Patrick Cockburn, Henry Cockburn

Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son's Story

On a cold February day two months after his 20th birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton and tried to swim across, almost drowning in the process. The trees, he said, had told him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world, in Kabul, Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned that Henry, his son, had been admitted to a hospital mental ward and appeared to be suffering a mental breakdown. Ten days later, Henry was officially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Thus begins Patrick and Henry's account of Henry's steep descent into mental illness and of Patrick's journey towards understanding the changes it has wrought. With admirable candour, Patrick writes of the seven years since, years Henry has spent almost entirely in mental hospitals. He also looks into the conflicted history of schizophrenia's diagnosis and treatment and shows how little we still know about this debilitating condition. 3.8 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son's Story

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Psychology & Psychiatry, Health & Medical
Format Hardback
Pages 256
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication February 2011
ISBN 978-1847377036
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

On a cold February day two months after his 20th birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton and tried to swim across, almost drowning in the process. The trees, he said, had told him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world, in Kabul, Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned that Henry, his son, had been admitted to a hospital mental ward and appeared to be suffering a mental breakdown. Ten days later, Henry was officially diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Thus begins Patrick and Henry's account of Henry's steep descent into mental illness and of Patrick's journey towards understanding the changes it has wrought. With admirable candour, Patrick writes of the seven years since, years Henry has spent almost entirely in mental hospitals. He also looks into the conflicted history of schizophrenia's diagnosis and treatment and shows how little we still know about this debilitating condition.

Henry's demons: Why my son's story needed to be told | The Independent

Reviews

The Observer

Alexander Linklater

... as good a primer into the current state of the psychiatric world as you will find ... And if there is a more lucid contemporary rendition of the experience of fully florid, schizophrenic psychosis than Henry's short, precise chapters in this book, I have not come across it.

20/02/2011

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The Spectator

Cressida Connolly

... remarkable, as important an addition to our understanding of altered mental states as William Styron’s memoir of depression, Darkness Visible, or the work of Kay Redfield Jamison, who writes about bipolar disease, or Oliver Sacks’ extraordinary navigations through the secret realms of our brains. Like these, Henry’s Demons never loses sight of the personality, the uniqueness, of the sufferer.

19/02/2011

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The Sunday Times

Ed Caesar

Patrick’s chapters are lucid, anxious, investigative, sometimes angry, but always infused with love. He not only wants to describe Henry’s passion but to examine the institutional failures that allow so many mentally ill people in Britain to fall through the net.

06/02/2011

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The Independent on Sunday

Nina Lakhani

Henry's Demons is not just a book for those with a personal or professional interest in mental illness. It is for anyone who appreciates good story-telling and good journalism, and for anyone curious to know what living with demons is really like.

20/02/2011

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The Daily Mail

Bel Mooney

Henry’s mother Jan (a university teacher) contributes diaries which provide a vivid and affecting third strand to the narrative. I applaud the family for not censoring her occasional anger with her son: the weariness, frustration and dread are the honest counter-balance to a mother’s devotion and self-sacrifice. You close Henry’s Demons with a profound sense of gratitude for this family’s courage in sharing what they have endured and crafting it into something of use and of beauty.

04/02/2011

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The Independent

Ivan Fallon

... a book of extraordinary candour and frankness ... It is Henry's words rather than Patrick's which will make this book special for those wrestling with family members with a mental illness.

11/02/2011

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The New York Times

Darin Strauss

Every few chapters, you’ll recognize some narrational chance Patrick misses and crave a writer of real storytelling élan; you’ll wish he’d worked harder to cultivate the stems and blooms of good drama … [But] the book works great anyway. That’s the power of brave confession combined with crackerjack research.

11/02/2011

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The New Statesman

Jonathan Derbyshire

In the preface, Patrick says he thought it important that his son be invited to "defend the reality of his experiences", or at least describe them from the inside ... However, Henry's reports on his mental states leave the reader with little idea of how it feels for inanimate objects to instruct one to, say, climb a viaduct or jump into a river. The father's assertion that Henry's Demons is "unique in its description of mental illness" is overblown. More persuasive is the judgement of a health tribunal — that the young man "did not show insight into his illness".

17/02/2011

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The New York Times

Dwight Garner

Henry’s Demons is not a masterpiece of the genre. But it is never boring, and not only because Henry, a talented painter, has a beautiful mind ... It’s also a living, breathing book because nearly everyone in his shaggy, expressive family is worth getting to know.

01/02/2011

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