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

Patrick Cockburn , Henry Cockburn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 Dec 2011
On a cold February day two months after his 20th birthday, Henry waded into the lethally cold Newhaven estuary and almost drowned. The trees, he said, had told him to do it. In Afghanistan, Patrick learned that Henry had been admitted to a hospital mental ward. Ten days later he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. With remarkable candour, Patrick writes of the seven years Henry has since spent almost entirely in mental hospitals. Schizophrenics are at high risk for suicide, and his parents live in constant fear for Henry's life. The book also includes Henry's own account of his experiences. In these raw and eerily beautiful chapters he tells of his visions and voices, the sense that he has discovered something magical and profound. Together, Patrick and Henry's stories create one of the most nuanced and revealing portraits of mental illness ever written, and a stirring memoir of family, parenthood, and courage.

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Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son's Story + Me, Myself, and Them: A Firsthand Account of One Young Person's Experience with Schizophrenia (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative) + The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (8 Dec 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847398596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847398598
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'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' --Daily Mail

'This joint father-son account of living with schizophrenia will ease the path of affected families while it moves and informs other readers' --Independent

'A frightening, gut-wrenching and fantastical story of a young man's voyage into madness . . . for anyone who appreciates good story-telling and good journalism, and for anyone curious to know what living with demons is really like' --Independent on Sunday

'Henry's Demons never loses sight of the personality, the uniqueness, of the sufferer. It would be impossible not to like Henry, who is candid, touching and often funny . . . Anyone lucky enough to read this book will wish that he continues to get better, and to write' --The Spectator

'Cockburn's account of his son's illness is clear and journalistic. He writes of the unremitting anxiety generated by being told on assignment in Iraq of yet another breakdown, and of the disastrous impacts of successive government policies on mental health provision . . . Henry's Demons is probably the most vivid account you will ever read of what it is to live with a mental illness'
--Literary Review

`A myth-shredding, light-shedding account explores a condition that few present-tense 'insiders' have ever written about . . . A truly remarkable book, and a brave one' --David Mitchell, author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas

`Intensely moving . . . There is poetry in this prose: the bipolarity of misery and exaltation that Blake understood' --Christopher Hitchens

'Moving and harrowing' --The Times

'I read this book, page by page, with a heart-thumping sense of recognition . . . 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' --Mark Vonnegut, M.D., author of Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So and The Eden Express Observer

'Candid and moving account by father and son of the latter's struggle with schizophrenia'
--Sunday Times

'The Cockburns have done a tremendous service in making their story available in all its horror, tenderness and beauty' --Guardian

'A mind-bending, heart-rending psychological classic' --E. James Lieberman, George Washington University School of Medicine, Library Journal

'Henry's Demons is delicately constructed . . . the power of brave confession combined with skilful research makes it an outstanding double memoir' --Scotsman

'The book's principal strength is that it includes Henry's own testimony. 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. "Only someone suffering from this strange and terrible illness," he writes, "can describe what it is really like"'
--New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining a light in the darkness 20 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unfortunately I have a huge knowledge of what carers go through and I really liked the brutal honesty of this book. Controversial and unpopular issues are raised (exactly the same as what I have been thinking).We have swung form a world of institutions to politically correct soundbites of freedom for the vulnerable without supportive structures in place. We still have not found the balance. As well as a deep insight into hospitals, their advantages and disadvantages, the book also raises issues regarding cannabis and its underplayed dangers. Needless to say it is well written and researched from an award winning journalist father and an academic mother but it is their emotions laid bare that will resonate most with the reader. Fewer, but significant, chapters are written by their son Henry and they give hope. There are not enough books like this out there. My only regret is that it deals with the British system and not the Irish one. Personal accounts remain eerily silent over here.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Passage Through Schizophrenia 7 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is written with great care and intelligence. By his own admission Patrick Cockburn knew nothing about schizophrenia when his son Henry was given that diagnosis about ten years ago but he seems to have read everything he could find in short order like the experienced journalist he is and among other things this book contains useful summaries of a variety of theories about the nature of the condition and its treatment. Cockburn is also very frank about the effect of Henry's experiences on his wider family. Perhaps the greatest value for me in the book however is his careful and accurate description of the way people diagnosed with schizophrenia are cared for in this country. I write as one who worked as a mental health social worker for ten years. For this reason, among others, I would recommend this book to anyone who for whatever reason wants to know about how mental illness is treated.

Cockburn also spells out the agonies carers go through. He states his opinions about various matters trenchantly and I don't always agree with him, especially on Laing and on care in the community. But his views are well put and worthy of careful consideration.

Several chapters of the book are written by Henry who gives a lucid account of his experiences. Like most people who achieve this diagnosis for many years he did not accept that he was ill. It is my belief that the `delusions' suffered by people diagnosed as schizophrenic are as real to them as other people's experience are to them, and I have also found that respecting this is the basis of any real communication with `mad' people. Henry is a talented artist and the way he talks about his communication with trees and other living things evokes a magical but difficult world.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Mingo Bingo VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When Patrick Cockburn received a telephone call while reporting in Afghanistan to tell him that his son, Henry, had been admitted into a hospital mental ward the Cockburn family began a long and arduous battle with schizophrenia.

Told by both Patrick and Henry this is the tale of Henry's road to (near) recovery. There are any number of books on the market about dealing with mental illness, but what stands this book out is it is told from both the patient and the family's point of view.

Henry's chapters are told with such honesty and candour that you can't help but to live the hallucinations with him Indeed told in this way it is understandable how he believed in them so wholeheartedly.

The chapters written by Patrick are as you would expect journalistic and informative, but the pain which Henry's illness caused the Cockburn family is clear to see.

It's heartbreaking to read the impact on Patrick and his wife as Henry goes missing for days on end and then the next chapter read what was going on in Henry's head as he tried to commune with nature and obeyed the voices in his head.

This isn't a misery memoir, and even though the health system failed the family in many way, this is not an indictment of the NHS. It is a moving and revealing look at schizophrenia, told in a refreshingly original way. For anyone who is touched by mental illness, and it is as many as one in four of us, should read this and take hope from it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving 15 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This true story touched me, I felt the heartache of the parents and the desperate struggle to try and understand the illness. Anyone who needs an understanding of mental health should read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 31 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover
This book appealed to me as I've recently been working closely with a schizophrenic client, and have been doing some background reading around the illness. I found this to be a very moving book and it was really helpful to read both Patrick and Henry's perspective's on his schizophrenia. It gave me a glimpse into the magical world Henry experiences, and how his illness can at times be seen as a gift, and at others a great burden.
I hope this book will educate those who believe people with schizophrenia are dangerous and should be avoided or feared. The schizophrenic's I've worked with have all been incredibly gentle, creative people, who I've learnt an awful lot from. I wish Henry and Patrick all the very best, and hope this won't be their last writing collaboration together.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written and brave account of parents facing schizophrenia
Such a well written book about a very difficult problem. It opens the door on a family tragedy, sharing the pain of the parents over the schizophrenic son and answers many... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book and insight into schizophrenia
Very insightful and moving read. I would recommend to anyone with an interest in mental health or a family or patient living with psychosis
Published 7 months ago by Gemma
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and true picture of schizophrenia
A realistic picture of schizophrenia, the effects on the sufferer and the family. Unusually Henry, the sufferer has a voice and this brings another important dimension to the book. Read more
Published 8 months ago by barbara eichenberger
5.0 out of 5 stars a real insight into the condition
This wasn't a pleasant book - and of course pleasant isn't what you expect. Reading about schizophrenia, especially from the points of view of both the patient and the father, you... Read more
Published 12 months ago by marianna
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok
This is second story I have read about life with schizofrenia. Interesting story from perspective of schizofrenic, but mainly from the closest family.
Published 13 months ago by Jo
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightfull tale of a fathers and son's life together with the son's...
I liked the journalistic style of both father and son and the apparent honesty of the family in general. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Disappointed
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful additional to a greater understanding
Unusual in having two sides to the story as I suspect in these situations the person who is affected has more often taken their life. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Alexander Kreator
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant true story of living with Schizophrenia
I read this book in 2011

This is a combined story of a father and son's experience of schizophrenia - the son has it, and writes about his experiences of it, and his... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Amanda Green
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most readable and revelationary books on life with...
This book really does give a genuinely unique insight into how the scourge of schizophrenia affects individuals and their families. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Janey M (Happy Teacher)
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
My own son developed a psychotic illness and it was a relief to read this book, recognising the squalor, grief, loss and humility which comes with it
Published 18 months ago by SE Gull
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