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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, inspiring, sad, awesome!
This book is a must for anyone working in mental health care settings. I have always felt that the last place a person suffering with mental health problems needs to be, is with others with the same issues, but the author's insight is so enlightening. She captures what she witnesses in such a way that I could be there. She says what I would say about it, and more, but...
Published on 17 Oct 2009 by Ms. K. R. Lowe

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Madness Inducing
I got this book as the premise seemed very interesting. I have Mental Health issues myself, I am interested in other people's experiences and try to read as much as I can from as many different perspectives as possible. This book I found maddening and incredibly tedious, it was poorly written, uninsightful and self pitying. Norah Vincent seems to lack any form of empathy...
Published 23 months ago by RandomLea


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sometimes difficult to read, but very thought provoking, 19 Oct 2010
I found it really hard to rate this book as there were things I liked and things I really didn't.

The premise of the book is that Vincent goes undercover into 3 different types of mental institution. They're all American which blurs the definitions a bit for a UK reader, but basically the equivalent of NHS, private and alternative health. She gets in by 'faking' symptons but really that's not always required because Vincent has her own mental health issues and has previously been in the 'bin' for real.

The book is as much a consideration of her own condition and what she should do about it as a critique of the system. She offers many views on the quality and style of care but ultimately there are so many different types of mental illness that it is impossible to make a one size fits all judgment on how they should be treated.

Therefore, Vincent concentrates most on what should be done about people like her, and the other similar people she encounters, who she believes might be over-medicated, over-treated perhaps. There is a lot of introspection and at times it is hard to read without judging her self-obsessed. Actually, I think I found it difficult because I recognised some of the same introspection in myself when depressed - that's part of the illness - it's just not always nice to have it reflected back at you in such navel gazing.

The book is useful for those wanting something to make them think about the various triggers for mental illness and the role of medication, it is useful, too, for people who want to understand a bit more about what depression is like. It is not an objective review of treatment options or procedures.

The biggest thing this book can do is make people think.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, inspiring, sad, awesome!, 17 Oct 2009
By 
Ms. K. R. Lowe (UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is a must for anyone working in mental health care settings. I have always felt that the last place a person suffering with mental health problems needs to be, is with others with the same issues, but the author's insight is so enlightening. She captures what she witnesses in such a way that I could be there. She says what I would say about it, and more, but she has lived it, and I haven't. It is not her peers that are the issue. It is the appalling treatment from some `professionals' who are meant to be carers. I think this should be mandatory reading for trainee clinical psychologists, trainee nurses, psychiatrists etc. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Madness Inducing, 26 Aug 2012
I got this book as the premise seemed very interesting. I have Mental Health issues myself, I am interested in other people's experiences and try to read as much as I can from as many different perspectives as possible. This book I found maddening and incredibly tedious, it was poorly written, uninsightful and self pitying. Norah Vincent seems to lack any form of empathy for the genuinely mentally ill people she encounters whilst researching this book which surprised me as she makes it perfectly clear that she has been treated for mental health issues previously. Vincent throughout her portrayal of her fellow residents is degrading, Vincent appears to see herself as superior to those around her and is highly condescending in her manner.

Vincent sets out to demonstrate the apathy present in the mental health sector, the disinterest of doctors and nurses and the over reliance of drugs which medicate people into the accepted norm, masking these "problems" whilst not actually treating the individual and while she does show this in the book her own attitudes dilute this message.

There are several other books which look at the mental health sector from a patient perspective which are much more insightful than this book. This book steers away from facts to form what is at best a tedious, whiny and througly bland narrative which fails to capture the interst of the audience and far from lives upto its premise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Voluntary reading, 5 April 2010
I wasn't sure if i'd like this at first, and i didn't. I thought Norah Vincent was a bit overly-analytical and pretentious, but once i started reading deeper into the book i ended up enjoying her insights and even ending up relating to her - don't we all over-analyse sometimes? And to be fair, she was left with a lot of free time in the institutions. This is a very personal book of insights on everything from the staff to the fellow 'inmates', to the daily routine. Vincent is brutally honest throughout, and that's what kept me reading. A compelling and sometimes shocking account of an interesting project.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read but takes a while to get into.., 24 July 2010
By 
T. King "tezcoolgirl" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This book portrays a really good insight into what it is like to stay as an in-patient in a psychiatric unit. From the nicknames she gives the other patients, to her experiences of the hospital food and medication experimentation, it offers an intimate look into life 'locked up'. Despite the fluent flow of the writing style the book takes a while to get into, begining too descriptive and almost dull in content, however if you persist it turns into a very good, involving and informative read.

As a psychology graduate I would strongly recommend this for all those interested in mental health/illness, psychology and psychiatry. But, even if you aren't, it's an excellent behind-the-scenes portrayal of undercover journalistic reporting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How've you 'bin' Norah?, 3 Nov 2013
Norah Vincent is an investigative journalist and writer who goes much further than most would in search of a good story. She calls it `immersion' - I'd say it's closer to obsession. For her first book - Self Made Man - she lived as a man for 18 months in order to better understand the differences between the sexes. As a result of her research, she ended up on a locked ward of a mental hospital. Let's say that some of the things she learned were just a bit too hard to handle. Knowing that she has a long history of mental health issues and chemical dependency, she doesn't go down the safe route of avoiding the triggers of her depression and sticking to the drugs she knows are least damaging to her. Her experiment with mental illness is the foundation of her second book `Voluntary Madness - My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin'.

Norah decided to test the `system' - to evaluate the options available for the treatment of mental illness in North America. She set out to experience three very different treatment regimes by checking herself into first a public inner-city hospital packed with down and outs, homeless folk and people whose family and friends had given up on them, then a rather more exclusive private treatment centre in the countryside, and finally to a Buddhism-inspired `spa' packed with alternative treatment ideas. For her first admission she had to fake her illness, exaggerate and play it up in order to get in. She thought she was going in `under cover' as an interested observer, a sane person in amongst the insane. By the second and third admissions she'd gone off her normal small dose of Prozac and into a genuine depression. She wasn't faking any more, she really needed treatment.

I found most of the book very interesting although I started to glaze over towards the end once Norah actually seemed to be understanding her problem and the root causes. The problem is - and there's no nice way to say this so apologies to those who've been through it - other people's depression just isn't really very interesting. Norah knows why she's `different' though she could have saved us all a lot of trouble by confessing a lot earlier than she does, but even with several hundred pages of deep introspection, she still seems to be denying the cause and effect of things that happened in her childhood. I won't tell you more - it's quite a revelation when it comes but it's swiftly followed by not very much at all.

I like Norah, and I mostly like her writing. Sometimes when she gets a bit too excited about something she thinks she's just discovered, or goes into too much detail about her feelings, I did find it a bit of a drag. Yes, maybe I as the reader am being disrespectful to the writer and her problems but in places she's so deeply self-indulgent that I struggle to care as much as I should. Hey, at the end of the day, I paid for the book, I'm allowed to judge a little bit.

So did I learn much from `Voluntary Madness'? Yes, I suppose I did. I learned that medication is a slippery slope and that far too few people know what they're getting into. That pharmaceutical companies are making a mint out of medicating the mentally fragile and that side effects are a way to sell even more drugs in a vicious circle of cause and treatment. She concludes that it's much easier to medicate people than to get to the bottom of their bad behaviour or their psychoses.

It's hard to say if I'd recommend this to a friend because it would depend entirely on that friend. I'm probably a bit too sane to get as much from this book as many readers will. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to people who have issues with depression or pharmaceutical dependency because - not wishing to spoil it - it doesn't have a completely happy ending. If you're slightly medicated or slightly depressed, this might help you see that the answer to your problems is unlikely to be found in a pill. But sadly it won't really give you an alternative answer either. I would be slightly concerned that some parts of this book could be `triggers' for people with similar problems. This might be a better book choice if you have loved ones who have such issues, but for a sunny optimist like me, it's quite hard to get your head around quite how self-destructive so many people can be.
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10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars give it a wide berth, 12 Mar 2010
By 
T. W. Mcclurg (barnamaghery) - See all my reviews
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You would like this to be a book which is sympathetic to its subject but the title is the giveaway - " the loony bin " . The writer is glib, vacuous , banal and callous. She is scathing about the mental health system but never offers constuctive suggestions . She vents her bile on everyone - the staff are a bunch of ignorant and cynical charlatans and the inmates drooling imbeciles . She seems to be in the throes of a bad case of misanthropy . Her use of the English language is sloppy , cliched and crude. This nasty little book left a very bad taste and did not deserve to be published.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, 16 Mar 2009
By 
Jk Priestley (uk) - See all my reviews
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Readable nicely paced story of the authors experiences. Freud she isn't but some interesting insights into the plight of those she observes.
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Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin
Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin by Norah Vincent (Hardcover - 30 Dec 2008)
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