A moving and important book for so many reasons,
This review is from: Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (Paperback)
Sectioned - A Life Interrupted is John O'Donoghue's first-person account of a decade spent in and out of psychiatric hospitals and, in between, a series of shared flats, hostels for the homeless, a brief stretch in prison, therapeutic communities and housing projects. It's a vivid evocation of how the benefits and good intentions of these places combine with their inability, ultimately, to 'help' and at times, the positive damage they do.
We see time and time again how someone can fall through the cracks - the first interruption is the heart-breaking death of John's father - the cosy, loving, low-key family is suddenly rudderless - his mother begins wandering the streets and John is taken into care - he experiences this as having betrayed and abandoned his mother and this perception is reawakened when he isn't able to get to Ireland for her death or funeral. The most effective time for the 'authorities' to have intervened would have been when the father died - instead, there follows a tragic cycle of depression and near-misses (we read of others who end up at Broadmoor, or as 'long stays' or dead) - thank goodness John doesn't have a taste for heroin - the cost of which - for the individuals concerned, society and the state - are huge - emotionally and financially. He almost becomes a Hare Krishna devotee but manages to escape again.
A question that comes up for me over and over, is who cares and how do they care? John is regularly asked questions by 'professionals' but doesn't really answer them and they don't seem to probe further. The motives of those in the caring professions are suspect - the therapeutic commmunity gave me the heebee geebees and there are funny insights throughout the book.
That John isn't one of those who've just disappeared is testimony to some inner strength - his love of poetry helps,intelligence, instincts for who to avoid and when to get out, his family back in Ireland are loving and kind but the turning point comes when a man called Martin helps him get to university.
The book is also a vivid portrait of London during the Thatcher years - aspects of which are back - and should be a wake-up call for everyone - if not to love their neighbour but to look out for them.
Much more to say about this rich and provocative read - but better just to recommend it.