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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
The author, Barbara Taylor, spent 8 months in what was called Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum (which later had a name change to Friern Hospital).

This is the amazingly well told, brave and interesting story of Barbara Taylor. The story of a woman who is a historian, and a published academic, She progressively became unwell and what started out as anxiety morphed into complete breakdown. She had a couple of decades of treatment which included psychoanalysis and her stay in what was called at that time, the Asylum. Her story makes the reader really feel for her. She goes to show that anyone can suffer from mental health problems from whatever background.

Behind her story is a solid history of mental health and the mental health care system. She integrates her own treatment into this history and puts it into context.

The really incredible part of this book is the honesty with which she talks of her story. It is told with such honesty and as a reader I felt touched and honoured to be able to read her account. In places, the book made me feel emotional. There are not many books about that do this to me.

Thank you Barbara Taylor for writing this book.

Highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2014
After reading Jenny Diski's review in the LBR and for reasons of my own I was interested to read this book and was not disappointed. Compelling because although harrowing to read it is beautifully written, It is about Barbara Taylor's own hellish journey through extreme mental illness (she calls them her madness years), her psychotherapy,and her years as a mental patient at Friern, but it is also a historical meditation on mental illness and mental health care in Britain in that period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2014
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in mental health Not always an easy read, it's a brave and powerful account of one woman's journey through the mental health system and through psychoanalysis, also tracing the history of psychiatric treatment in this country. This encompasses the closure of the old asylums and move to community care, recent issues including severe bed shortages, the rise of Community Treatment Orders and lack of continuity of care. The author, a historian at Queen Mary College, University of London, has organised various events to help publicise this book, including a panel discussion featuring professionals and service users. Sadly, a good number of them, besides members of the audience at the one I attended, concluded that things are now worse rather than better, partly as a result of what was described as quick fix/box ticking culture in the NHS.
Let's hope two things happen: the post Francis Inquiry work NHS trusts have to do to change their cultures has tangible results and the promised 'parity of esteem' (allocation of equal resources to mental as physical health) will be delivered by NHS England and the Government.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2014
The author is both honest about her personal story and thoughtful in discussing the history of mental asylums in Britain and of the decline in services for mentally ill people today. I couldn't put it down! The accounts of the psychoanalytic sessions were fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2014
A much needed insight into a breakdown and a journey through the experience and the help that was available - both statutory and in the private sector.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2014
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and the author describes her experiences of psychiatric hospital with clarity and some wit. I particularly enjoyed reading about her experience of psychoanalysis. Her opinions and thoughts on the demise of institutional care and its replacement with "community care" are thought provoking. I worked in mental health services for many years and was part of a team responsible for the closure of a large psychiatric hospital and was very interested in reading about a "patient/client/service users" experience of this process. I also have experience as a "service user" myself and found this book very helpful personally. I thank the author for a great reading experience..
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is an exceptional book. Barbara Taylor experienced a long period when she needed help with her mental condition. She describes very movingly her relationship with her long-suffering therapist, and her experience of being in the asylum- her nuthouse and in various levels of care.
She also gives us the history of the way mental health patients have been treated over a long period. And finally the impact of current policies. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2014
An interesting and informative book that deserves a place in the literature recording the history of the treatment of mental illness. In particular the Epilogue contains the best summary I have seen of the current failures in treatment modalities offered in the UK under the guise of IAPT; a succint and perceptive view by Barbara Taylor throwing light on some of the many difficulties facing practitioners and patients alike in these times of 'austerity'.
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on 28 March 2014
"The last asylum:a memoir of madness" moved me to the core. It manages to combine two very different and yet experientially overlapping stories - Barbara Taylors own long,often terrifying therapeutic journey through breakdown, not to recover herself but to discover and create her self : and the story of the age of the asylums in this country, again through experiential witnessing of one of the biggest of those asylums as it moved towards closure, and its replacement by a mental health care in the community which is a ghostly shell of what it claims to be, now. My journey as a mental health worker and psychotherapist began at that hospital, and, all these years later I am sadly aware of the paltry lack of care in the community by those of us disturbed depressed and sometimes disintegrated by our harsh competitive and sometimes brutal social environments.Barbara Taylor survived and her brave testimony should be read by all those who care about their fellow citizens, and our shared vulnerability as human beings.
Les Parsons
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on 14 June 2014
This book contains two parallel strands: the author's long and difficult journey to mental health through psychoanalysis and the psychiatric support provided by the UK health system. It is sometimes searingly personal and provides a deep insight into what it must be like to suffer from mental illness.

At the same time, the author's skill as a historian is clear in the way she relates the history of psychiatry in Britain in the 20th century.

Her experience as a mental patient leads her to conclusions which hit the reader as glaringly obvious, but which have been virtually disregarded by those who decide on the organisation and provision of mental health facilities in Britain today.

In short, this is an engaging book, a personal story of hardship taking many years to overcome. Recommended to all those interested in mental illness and society's response to the mentally ill.
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