Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Review: Leaving The Hall Light On

THE TV SHOW 60 MINUTES ran a segment recently that addressed the issue of mental illness and the mistreatment of patients by the current mental health care system. There is a cycle: patients are at risk of becoming a danger to themselves or others and are admitted to a psychiatric facility. Doctors prescribe medication which stabilizes the patient. The patient is then released. Back in society, the patient stops taking the meds, destabilizes and is readmitted. And the cycle continues. Pardon my bluntness here but how freaking asinine is this? 

I have to admit that this harmful inefficiency makes me angry. In this modern day and age, how can we continue to employ a system that mistreats and neglects the needs of vulnerable citizens and their families? It's not right and it needs to change. 

This flawed system is what Madeline Sharples and her husband Bob were up against when they discovered their son Paul had bi-polar disorder. And for them, like so many, the cycle ended tragically with Paul's suicide. 

Madeline's riveting account takes us back to how a sweet, young boy with incredible talent and promise devolved into a young man with a disorder that confounded them. Eventually they get a diagnosis but they need so much more. 

In some ways, I know what Madeline went through. In 2005, my best friend ended her life in her psych ward room a few hours after I left her there.* This just goes to show that the system has a long way to go. 

Although I disagree on a few of Madeline's conclusions and beliefs. Her book is worth reading if you've been through a similar experience. It helps to know that you're not alone and that others have felt that same guilt, anger and emotional agony over not just the loved one suffering but the system designed to help them. As she wrote, "His moods controlled mine." Totally understandable when you love a child with every fiber of your being and want the best for them. It's a gut-wrenching way to live but could be so much easier if the system were revamped. We can hope.    

(*You can read the complete account in The Moment I Knew. See sidebar.) 


  1. On the news this morning, they were talking about mentally ill people being killed by police officers. What a horrible thing! One woman called 911 to get an ambulance for her husband, but the police came, and then killed him.

    Have I told you we have a neighbor who has schizophrenia? His mom, who he had lived with an hour away died, and one of his brothers, who lives in Canada, dumped him at a house that he owns 2 houses to the west of us. He had no services for quite awhile, and was not able to take care of himself. He would walk all over the place, yelling obscenities. He still walks a lot, but does not yell as much while he's doing that. He does yell from inside his house, though, and did again outside the other day.

    Sometimes he says hello to me, but other times, he looks like a different person, and ignores me. I worry a bit about him hearing voices and deciding to hurt someone.

    There was a hearing recently, because someone finally found the right person to send a letter to. They may be looking for a group home for him. I hope they follow through and find a good placement for him. My heart goes out to him, and also the next door neighbor lady who is high strung and not dealing with his yelling well. She hears it from inside her house. (We do, too, when he's outside.)

  2. Our mental health system is so inadequate. It looks like we would have realized by now that what we have is not working. I have heard of this book and will put it on my to read list. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Grace this is a National problem and disgrace as we abandon those needing help with just some drugs and an inadequate system. As an educator I can tell you of so many nightmares because we have very little help for kids or families...and it is the first thing we cut. We need more not less. So sad.

  4. "Leaving The Hall Light On" sounds like a book I want to read knowing how my brother's bi-polar/schizophrenia affected my parents. I'll check it out on Amazon.

    My brother wasn't diagnosed until he was in his late 20's, married with two children. His wife blamed my parents and it put a terrible burden of guilt on them they didn't deserve.

    Thanks for continuing to point out mental health issues, we all need help in knowing better how they should be treated when they affect someone we love dearly as well as those strangers groping in the dark for answers.

    Fortunately, my brother had excellent doctors in his psychiatric hospital who prescribed the correct medications and he has been able to live a somewhat normal life as long as he stays on them.

    I think that is a big factor, patients taking the right medications on a regular basis. Thanks again. This is an important issue that affects us all.

  5. Thanks, Grace, for your review here and for sharing how important it is to raise awareness about mental illness and suicide. Hopefully with your help we will erase stigma some day and get the proper help the mentally ill need. All best, Madeline


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