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Agnes's Jacket Hardcover – 19 Aug 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Press (19 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594865442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594865442
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.4 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,158,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""Agnes's Jacket" is an amazing psychological adventure story. Hornstein, an academic psychologist with the skills of a first-rate journalist, enters the world of the truly "mad" and comes out with profound lessons about her profession and herself. In a revolutionary break with therapeutic tradition, she says we need to listen to the voices these disturbed patients hear. But first we need to listen to her!" Barbara Ehrenreich, best-selling author of "Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America ""Riveting, revolutionary, and important--not to mention exquisitely written--"Agnes's Jacket" tells us what we should have been doing all along." Joanne Greenberg, best-selling author of "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden """Agnes's Jacket "is" "compelling and beautifully done and will, thank goodness, open people's eyes." Susie Orbach, author of "The Impossibility of Sex: Stories of the Intimate Relationship between Therapist and Patient """""Agnes's Jacket "is a useful, passionate, and well-informed book about the many meanings of madness, distinguished by its understanding of what madness is and feels like to those who experience it." Jay Neugeboren, author of "Imagining Robert" and "Transforming Madness ""Gail Hornstein attacks the stigma attached to mental illness with enormous originality and imagination. The madness narratives she has discovered document with startling clarity the experience of those who've suffered at the hands of orthodox psychiatry. She has brought into the light a true literature of protest." Patrick McGrath, author of "Spider" and "Trauma"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By sally on 11 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is very informative and an eye opener to how mental illness is used as a very loose term
to label too many people suffering from depression, grief and other fragile states of the human condition.
It informs us of the positive move away from psycotic drugs towards taking independant steps to
restore the human psyche. I am particularly interested in Agnes Richter and her journey.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Should Be Required Reading For All Mental Health Clinicians 8 Nov. 2012
By DragonflyD - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read many more books than I review. But every once in a while a book comes along that just makes me want to sing it's praises. The style with which this author convey's such valuable information makes the reading very easy for anyone. Reading this book changed the way I see my role in assisting my client's, and changed in many ways the way I see the experiences of my clients. I have recommended it to many of my co-workers, friends, and even some client's themselves. I will be remembering the people and their experiences, which the author so eloquently shared long after the pages are closed. Much of the world's mindset regarding "mental illness" needs to change and books like this could be the foundation upon which we as a society change our ways of thinking, and acting in order to provide more beneficial outcomes which truly support rather than harm other members of our society.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Thought provoking and accessible to the lay person 5 Jun. 2009
By Margaret Pyle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Agnes's Jacket. Being that Ms. Hornstein is a Mount Holyoke college professor, I was concerned that it might be quite technical and dry, but it was anything but that. Agnes's Jacket is a thought provoking analysis of the lives of people who hear voices, suffer from depression and a variety of other devastating psychological problems and how they have been treated medically in the US versus the UK. Ms. Hornstein makes a convincing case that in the UK, where self-help groups are more prevalent and medication is less prescribed, the ill seem to have a safer place to manage their illnesses and therefore have better, and even more normal lives.
As I read the book, I kept on thinking of different people in my life who would benefit from reading it. Agnes's Jacket also made me think of all of the people who I see daily (I work in NYC)who may be suffering from some of these afflictions, and it makes me think about the hardships in their lives.
Agnes's Jacket was a really wonderful book to read and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I've already passed it on at work to have others read it. It would be a great book to read and discuss in a book club.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, insightful, enlightening book 19 May 2010
By K. L. Haworth - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book and am finding it difficult to express how wonderful I think it is. But I think it has the potential to be a life-changing book for many people, so I will add a few words of praise to the eloquent reviews I read above (or below, depending on where this review gets posted).

The information and insights in this book have fundamentally changed the way I look at "madness" and the way I feel and think about those around me who are dealing with mental health issues. After reading this book, I hope I can be a better and more supportive friend to those in my social circle who are living with schizophrenia and depression. And I know for certain that I will look differently (with more caring and understanding, I hope) at strangers I come across in my daily life who appear to be mad.

Thank you, Gail Hornstein, for writing this book and for sharing the stories of some truly amazing and inspiring individuals and groups.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Study of Mental Illness 24 Sept. 2012
By Lynn C. Tolson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Hornstein is a psychology professor at Mount Holyoke College. She conveys extraordinary empathy in the stories she weaves into Agnes's Jacket. Agnes Richter was a hospitalized German woman who stitched messages on her jacket to express herself. Dr. Hornstein uses the jacket as a focal point representation of the trap of mental illness that found a narrative escape.

Dr. Hornstein sees value in the writings of patients who provide insight into the nature of madness. A main theme of Agnes's Jacket supposes that recovery from madness can be achieved through mutual support and self-help. Dr. Hornstein states that the patients themselves are "experts by experience" who can help their peers. This peer-support approach opposes the medical model espoused by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill which states that "mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders."

Dr. Hornstein travelled Europe in search of the meanings of madness, attending lectures, visiting groups, and exploring theories. She shares her immense research in a writerly way that makes the book read more like a mystery than a study in psychology. She uses true stories from patients' experiences with mental health agencies.

According to Dr. Hornstein, in Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, social psychiatry proposes that: "Emotional distress is assumed to result from family crisis, racism, poverty, sexual abuse, war, or terrorism." However, in the United States, psychiatrists fail to connect "madness" with previous life experiences.

Counselors and their clients may develop a greater understanding of mental illness by Dr. Rothstein's interesting look into trauma and treatment. Patients are more than their apparent symptoms and resulting diagnosis; they are individuals with stories to tell. Society might listen to the stories to open lines of communication that will ultimately serve to enhance the mental health of its citizens.

Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Anti-scientific and naive 23 Aug. 2014
By Sanda J Spiegel - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is unfortunate that Ms. Hornstein is so totally one-sided in her approach to mental illness. Much of what she speaks about with regard to the experience of trauma that precedes mental illness is accurate, as is her discussion of the role of mutual support in healing from mental illness, but she clearly has no understanding whatsoever of neuroscience, or how that trauma affects the brain. She also does not have an explanation for those people with mental illness who did not suffer trauma, or for those for whom there is a strong genetic component. Nor do her explanations account for those who suffer trauma who do not develop mental illness. The model that makes the most sense in explaining mental illness is the stress diathesis model in which the diathesis is the predisposition which is triggered by environmental factors. The role of trauma in mental health is increasingly studied and taught in the United States.
The second major disagreement that I have with her book is her wholesale disregard for the field of psychiatric medicine.To dismiss virtually all psychiatry as being in thrall to big pharma does a huge disservice to those patients who are helped by medications. As a mental health clinician (not a psychiatrist) I have seen clients who are able to lead normal lives when taking their medications stop taking them and become psychotic. I have witnessed their return to sanity when back on their medications again. That is not to say that the pharmaceutical industry is a paragon of virtue. It is full of egregious violations of health, safety, ethics and law.
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