On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday.
Published: January 2009
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
I've read conflicting reviews of this book ranging from it being a very in depth look at the experience of some patients in Willard State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, to a book that merely seeks to indict the mental health system based on shoddy research. Having worked in a state psychiatric institution myself for a number of years and currently responsible for ensuring state hospitals in my area are discharging individuals back to the community in a timely manner, I'd like to take a look at this book and form my own opinion.
When New York's 120-plus-year-old mental institution Willard State Hospital was closed down in 1995, New York Museum curator Craig Williams found a forgotten attic filled with suitcases belonging to former inmates. He informed Penney, co-editor of The Snail's Pace Review and a leading advocate of patients rights, who recognized the opportunity to salvage the memory of these institutionalized lives. She invited Stastny, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, to help her curate an exhibit on the find and write this book, which they dedicate to "the Willard suitcase owners, and to all others who have lived and died in mental institutions." What follows are profiles of 10 individual patients whose suitcase contents proved intriguing (there were 427 bags total), referencing their institutional record-including histories and session notes-as well as some on-the-ground research. While the individual stories are necessarily sketchy, the cumulative effect is a powerful indictment of healthcare for the mentally ill.
Please feel free to share your thoughts about this book...do you feel it was thoroughly researched? Is the author more focused on indicting the mental health system rather than telling a fact based story of the patients' lives and their experience in psychiatric institution?