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on 18 September 2009
This is an absorbing and compelling read from Jean Davison, who paints a vivid, brutally revealing picture of being brought up in a deeply dysfunctional family in the poverty of the backstreets of Bradford and how it affects the choices she makes when as an intelligent but painfully shy adolescent she begins to question the path that her upbringing seems to have mapped out for her. One of those choices led her to a psychiatrist and onto a nightmarish path through the mental health services of the late 60s and early 70s. There are others still trapped on that same path, which in some areas has changed very little in what should be an enlightened age, who found no way off. Written with a wicked sense of humour this insightful book should be a wake up call to those working in mental health, and those who have loved ones using its services, to listen, adapt and improve.
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on 14 September 2009
"Whenever I'm sitting with a patient, and I begin to get the feeling one of us is mad, my first assumption is that it is the patient" ~ Thus began a psychiatrist giving a talk to myself and fellow Relate counsellors back in the late 1970s. Sadly, that assumption won't always prove accurate. This book, a personal memoir, sheds light on the awful and disturbing chain of events that unfolded back in the late 1960s when a teenage girl made the simple mistake of asking the right question in the wrong place; a mistake that led to five almost unimaginably painful years which threatened to ruin her life.

One of the most fundamental human rights is the right to be unhappy, and one of the most valuable human qualities is the capacity to bear, and voice, doubt. Sadly, this young woman made the mistake of voicing her doubts and unhappiness in a context that lacked the imagination to see these human qualities as anything other than dysfunctions to be treated with copious doses of mind-altering and dependence inducing drugs, and sending electric currents zinging through her brain. Thankfully, she survived the dark tunnel of psychiatry at its most myopic and arrogant, to emerge to recount her tale with a quiet, determined strength and, what must have been a painful honesty. Hers has been quite a journey.

This book is not for the faint-hearted, no easy bedtime treat to send you contentedly off to sleep; but it is well worth reading and the themes stayed with me long after the last page. It is a patient's personal story with much to teach the psychiatric profession, and all who append labels to that which they do not understand, and most probably, regard with fear. There is much arrogant mis-diagnosis and subsequent `bad medicine' described in The Dark Threads, and it would be all too easy (and dangerous) to take comfort behind the conviction, `of course it wouldn't happen nowadays!' Mercifully, despite the book's vivid details of much damaging, inappropriate, and inhumane medical treatment; and an undeniably difficult home life and upbringing, there are also bright shards of humanity that shine through the chapters. Thank goodness for the brave independence of Dr Copeland, for young Danny's faith in his own judgement, for a teenage girl's best friends, for a loving Pastor with his head screwed on, and for a young woman's instinct to never quite lose faith in those rare shafts of light... and for having the courage in middle-age to remember back to those dark days and enlighten us with her brave story.

Kevin Chandler
Author, and therapist.
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on 7 January 2010
I highly recommend The Dark Threads. It's an extremely interesting and thought provoking book. Jean Davison has tackled a complex and difficult subject very competently and sensitively and she writes very engagingly with insight and humour. I found the book very painful and harrowing to read in places but at the same time found it hard to put down. The Dark Threads is an absorbing and compelling read. I found some of the accounts of how psychiatry was practised very disturbing indeed. Jean Davison has written a brilliant book; it is essential reading for anyone working in the mental health field and though not an easy read it's a book that stays in the mind.
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on 16 June 2011
This book is a well written and fascinating life story and I found it hard to put down - wanting to know how Jean got herself out of the awful situation she had been pushed into. It's the story of a teenage girl from what we would now call a 'dysfunctional' family who wants more for herself than those around her seem to want. Her family seem to have no ambition or aspirations for a brighter future but Jean does, and through trying to express her needs for more meaning to her life she ends up in a home for mental patients being forced to take more and more drugs for her supposed 'problem'.

My heart was with the author all the way through the book, and I was eager to find how she eventually escaped from all the misdiagnoses of so called experts. Thankfully Jean's story has a happy ending and she was able to pull herself out of the desperate situation by her own efforts.
I would recommend this book to any person, young or old who has questions about the futility of a seemingly meaningless life and I would also recommend it to anyone who has ever suffered from shyness and the inability to express themselves against the more forceful and louder speaking people around them.
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on 1 August 2012
This was a very interesting read - provoked all my emotions, I was near to tears in a lot of places, & at the end of the book I felt so angry that someone could have been treated so arrogantly by so called members of the medical profession. What a courageous young woman to eventually come through such horrors. Certainly provokes the question how many more didn't survive, & are still zombies to this day because of the barbaric way they were unnecessarily treated because "They" knew best. Still makes me angry thinking about this while typing.
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on 6 February 2014
It's quite horrifying how easy it was (hopefully only in the past tense) to get caught up in the world of the mental health services of Jean's day - and how hard to get out again. I was also horrified at how uncaring some of the staff appreared to be, staff that were there to look after, protect and heal. I was fascinated because the story was nasty and yet seemed to go on and on and the book never seemed to end. That's not a criticism, it's just that I think I was hoping to get to the "happy ending" and it never seemed to get any nearer.
I've dropped a star simply because after the extremely detailed part of the story about the hopitals, doctors and treatments, how she came to the realisation that she could remove herself and get back to a "normal" life was so less detailed, almost a decision she made - so it happened, rather than what gave her the strength and determination to get back out and what I assume was a struggle to permanently stay out this time.
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on 14 February 2015
It's an excellent book that describes the journey of a woman into, and her escape out of, the clutches of incompetent and poorly trained mental health 'professionals'. It is a testimony to her strength of character and determination that she survived the drugs and the electrical attacks to her brain. Many people don't survive.

It's alarming to know that electro-convulsive 'therapy' was in such recent use. Psychiatry can't be that much different to other forms of medicine where dangerous and invasive procedures are used as a first choice rather than as a last resort. Many people with physical or emotional troubles could be better helped by a change of diet and lifestyle or by having someone to talk to. Like vivisection, the ideas behind these disciplines are stuck in the 19th-Century.

Read it if you want an insight into the often dark world of psychiatric treatment.
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on 15 November 2014
Poor Jean writes of how she sought help, advice from a psychiatric professional when she had no proper guidance from her family and really just needed to talk about normal teenage awakenings in the 1960s. She was persuades to be admitted to a mental institution on a voluntary basis and ended up hooked on drugs and having ECT for nearly five years. A very good read, Jean finally overcame her addiction to the drugs and found her way in life through her intelligence and her writing. This book leaves you feeling that the psychiatric doctors involved with Jean should be called to account and though I would like to think that more is known about the drugs and the treatments for mental illness and institutions do not exist as they did then, I suspect that somewhere there are still people like Jean who cannot break out of the system.
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on 25 February 2014
I found this eminently readable because of its personal no- nonsense style and felt I could relate to Jeans traumas and insecurities well..despite being frustrated and disturbed by them.The inconsistencies and crisis-management forms of her treatments were mind-blowingly inept and paint a picture of mental health decision-making as erratic to the extreme.All the way through I felt that she was depressed rather than psychotic..and when she finally relinquished her hold on prescription drugs I was certain she had made the right choices..though instant withdrawal was clearly a bad idea! A rewarding book and one which challenges all the stereotypes of
mental health provision and practices.Thank you Jean for bringing it to our attention and for raising our awareness.A mind-provoking story.
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on 14 January 2011
Simply wonderfully written. The author whisks the reader through her journey into the world of psychiatric services, it's pitfalls, strengths, weaknesses, frustrations and oddly enough, some humorous times too. This is an engaging book and a must for anyone who works in the mental health field. It offers valuable insight into the dark threads of life (from many years ago and sadly which is still very relevant today). It is an excellent autobiographical account from Jean Davison which stimulates the reader's mind to differentiate the fine line between 'normal' teenage development, searching for the answers to the meaning of life, spirituality and (mis)diagnosis of a schizophrenic illness. It's one of those books you just can't put down! Five stars +++++
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