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NAMI Bookshelf: March 2010

Editors note: Click the book title to order the book from and NAMI will receive a portion of the proceeds.

The Boy Who Loved TornadoesThe Boy Who Loved Tornadoes
Randi Davneport
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (2010)

In this memoir, a mother fights to provide strength and stability for a young son with autism and a husband whose erratic behavior confuses her. Eventually, the husband slips into his own world and permanently out of the family's orbit. At age 15, the son enters a terrible psychosis and is unable to recognize his own mother. Beautifully written, the book is a heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant, story of how one mother navigated a byzantine and broken health care system to save her son and the rest of her family.

Asked whether the family's experiences were unique, Davenport says the saddest part of the book is that they are common. The good news is that it a love story-focused on her children-that stands "like a beacon, offering clarity, inspiration and validation for us all" according to one reviewer whose family has also lived with serious mental illness.

Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion's Toughest MatchAcing Depression: A Tennis Champion's Toughest Match
Cliff Richey with Hilaire Richey Kallendordf, Ph.D.
New Chapter Press (2010)

Before John McEnroe, the original "bad boy" of tennis was Cliff Richey who, in 1970, led the United States to a Davis Cup Title and finished as the first Grand Prix world points champion. Tantrums and boorish behavior masked a deep struggle with depression that also affected his family.

In his worst days, Richey, covered the windows of his house with trash bags, stayed in bed and cried. In tennis, however, his nickname was "The Bull" and Richey eventually summoned that kind of determination to overcome his illness-a 10-year struggle helped also by medication.

Richey and his daughter Hilaire, a college professor, wrote the book together after spending over 200 hours reliving his career and family life. It was a candid, emotional process that led to family healing. "The traumatic effects on family members of clinical depression are real and lasting," writes Hilaire. "Nothing about depression is normal," as she sought to determine what had happened to her father and why. For Cliff, recovery included a grieving process and making peace with himself and others. He also states a bottom line: "Depression can be beaten. Far worse than being beaten is not staying out on the court... never, ever, ever give up."

We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of MedicationWe've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication
Judith Warner
Riverhead Books (2010)

If you want systematic, detailed arguments to counter critics who attack scientists, psychiatrists, parents and medications without really knowing what they are talking about, this is a book for you-one that has made headlines and an important contribution public debate. It exposes myths over whether children are being overdiagnosed and overmedicated. Through extensive research and interviews, Warner, a contributing writer for the New York Times, cuts through misinformation, half-truths and hysteria to explore three questions:

  • Are parents and physicians putting medical labels on children to explain away bad behavior?
  • Are drugs being used as a substitute for proper parenting?
  • Do these questions suggest "unacknowledged" issues surrounding how parents perceive themselves?

Warner's starting point was the common misconception: that children were being overpathologized and overmedicated by anxious parents and test-driven schools. Instead, she realized her beliefs were wrong.

Children often "suffer enormously" from mental illness and parents struggle painfully to make the right decision about whether or not to medicate them. The percentage of children and teens who take medication-5 percent-is only a fraction of the number with diagnosable "issues," she writes as she lays out current scientific understandings for a range of conditions-including ADHD and bipolar disorder-and treatments available for them. It is a powerful antidote to false dogma.

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