In 2007, neuroscientist Lisa Genova self-published her first novel, “Still Alice.” It tells the story of a Harvard psychology professor and her experience with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book became a best-seller and is now a major motion picture. Join Diane and her guests for a discussion of “Still Alice.”
When Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn’s son was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he did what came most naturally to him. He sat down and began to write about it. And his son, Henry, did the same. Their two accounts of nearly a decade of living with schizophrenia are paired in the new memoir, “Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story.”
- Henry Cockburn In 2002, at age 20, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He currently resides at a rehabilitation center in London.
- Patrick Cockburn Iraq correspondent for The Independent in London. He is the author of the books, "Muqtada," "The Occupation," "The Broken Boy," and with Andrew Cockburn, "Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Henry Cockburn has been in and out of mental hospitals in the U.K. for nearly nine years. He says being locked up for so long really damages your spirits. You feel forgotten. In 2002, Cockburn was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20. It shocked his family and together they struggled to learn how best to help him.
MS. DIANE REHMNow Henry and his father, foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn, have co-written a memoir detailing their experience. Both Patrick and Henry join me in the studio. I hope you'll join us as well on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning Patrick.
MR. PATRICK COCKBURNGood morning.
REHMGood morning, Henry.
MR. HENRY COCKBURNGood morning.
REHMGood to have you both here. Patrick, tell us about what prompted Henry's diagnosis?
COCKBURNWell, I first learned about it, I was in Kabul in Afghanistan and I rang up my -- just after the fall of the Taliban in 2002 and I called up my wife Jan in England and I heard this very panicky voice on the phone.
COCKBURNAnd she said that Henry had almost died, that he'd tried to swim an estuary in freezing -- this was January, freezing water and had been rescued by some fisherman and brought to a hospital in Brighton in England. And so I rushed home and then he was later diagnosed as having schizophrenia.
REHMIt couldn't have been very easy for you to get home from Afghanistan as quickly as you would have liked.
COCKBURNSure. I mean, it's the worst place in the world to get out of because there weren't any planes. So I had a driver and I said to him, look, you know, I've just -- this is what's happened. It happened to my son and we've just got to head for Pakistan which is through the Kabul Gorge and the Khyber Pass. And so he said, well, there have been attacks on the roads and journalists have been killed and so forth.
COCKBURNAnd I said, well, you know, we've still got to do it so I -- you know, Afghans are pretty tough. He said, right, you know. We'll just -- if anybody tries to stop us we'll drive straight over them. So we got across the border. I got to Pakistan, got a plane, came back to England.
REHMHenry what do you remember about that night?
COCKBURNSort of -- I was walking east in Brighton and I got to a big wall and I just followed the wall and I thought there were prisoners behind it. And I just walked and walked and walked and I thought I was fleeing a nest, as it were. And I thought I was going to go back. I thought I was going to go back to Canterbury and I felt forces usher me to swim over the estuary and I woke up in hospital.
REHMDo you remember getting into the water?
COCKBURNI got in and started swimming.
REHMYou must have been terribly cold?
COCKBURNYeah, but, you know, you get -- after a few minutes you get -- what's the word?
REHMUsed to it?
COCKBURNNo, you begin to get frostbite, Henry. I mean, when you don't feel the cold anymore, that's when -- that means you're not going to last very long.
COCKBURNWell, it was a lot worse when I got out of the water than it was when I was in it.
REHMBut the fisherman helped you out and then the police came?
COCKBURNThey took me back to hospital.
REHMSo do you remember the police coming to get you and taking you to hospital?
COCKBURNNo. It was not a mental hospital, I went to a general hospital.
COCKBURNAnd then, because this was a couple of weeks previously I'd -- there's a massive wall and I sort of tried to climb it and the police -- I was walking in bare feet as well and it was January. And I got arrested and they put me in the cell and said -- you know, a psychologist came and a social worker came and they said I was all right. But then, after I swam from Newhaven, they said, I've got some good news for you. I thought, wicked, they're going to let me off. And they said, we got you into the Priory Clinic at Hove and so it was a bit of an anti-climax. And I went there and it was horrible.
REHMPatrick, then clearly before Henry took his swim, there were symptoms you and your wife saw?
COCKBURNYeah, there were symptoms immediately before, but only -- I mean, it was the incident that Henry mentioned. But if you take it six weeks earlier, then it wasn't evident.
REHMHow about ten years earlier?
COCKBURNNo, no, it wasn't. I mean, Henry -- even a few weeks earlier, Christmas -- this happened sort of January, February. But at Christmas, I'd asked Henry how things were going and he said, I've never been happier in my life. I really like being a student in Brighton. And of course, I've gone over in my mind hundreds of times what were the symptoms that should have jumped out at me. But even retrospectively, there really isn't much that, you know, his room was very messy. But, you know, what student's room is neat and tidy, you know? Was that a sign? Well maybe it's incredibly messy but, you know, you can't -- it's only retrospectively that that points in one direction.
COCKBURNThen a few weeks before this happened, then things like this started happening, but we didn't actually know. My wife and I didn't know much about it at the time.
REHMBeing the journalist that you are, I'm sure you did a fair amount of investigation into whatever the diagnosis was that the doctors then gave you?
COCKBURNYes. I mean, one thing that sort of struck me, it strikes me now and it struck me then, was I knew practically nothing about mental illness. I'd never been inside a mental hospital in my life so of course when this -- I got to England as soon as I'd seen Henry and at the hospital, I went back to my hotel and got online and looked up schizophrenia. And one of the first things I found was that a U.S. doctor -- I think the surgeon general, at one point, had said schizophrenia is to mental illness what cancer is to physical illness.
COCKBURNThen it began to become clear to me that this was something that was incredibly dangerous and very long-term. That this was something that was going to go on for decades and while there were medications that could control it, there wasn't really much that could cure it. It was still something of a mystery. And it also struck me that the knowledge of what goes in the brain, mental illness, is about 100 years behind knowledge of physical illness, something I didn't realize before.
REHMPatrick Cockburn, Henry Cockburn, their new book co-written is titled, "Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Henry, do you remember your childhood? Do you remember being a happy child? Do you remember your photographs? The photographs in the book of you as a child are pretty close to angelic.
COCKBURNI can't remember that much of my childhood.
REHMDid you like…
COCKBURNThe picture of my face on the front cover, but it looks like a different person to me.
REHMYou don't know that person?
COCKBURNYou looked exactly like a small, cheerful cherub actually, Henry, when you were three, four and later. Maybe you don't remember, but I certainly do.
REHMPatrick, why did you decide to do this book and how did you do it?
COCKBURNWell, about three years ago, Henry was sort of getting better, but...
COCKBURNThough medication. He was taking medication regularly and which controlled but didn't cure and he'd stopped running away. He'd run away about 30 times from hospital and had, you know...
REHMAfter the incident?
COCKBURNAfter the incident, just over the years. But that had sort of eased off and I thought, you know, what could he do, you know, which would be positive? I mean, it's pretty depressing being in a mental hospital for so many years seeing your youth disappearing.
COCKBURNSo I thought that he -- we could write about what had happened to him. But I was very clear in my own mind that the way to do it was that I would write part of the book and he would write another part of the book was the only way I think you can really understand what a psychosis is like is to be inside it. It isn't something that somebody outside it can describe.
REHMHenry, what did -- what was your reaction when your father said, shall we write a book together?
COCKBURNPretty positive really. I was (word?) pretty positive, yeah.
REHMHenry, I think what your father is trying to do is to ensure that you stay in front of the microphone.
COCKBURNYeah, pretty...what was the question?
REHMPretty positive and you were willing to enter into this partnership then with your father. The book is titled, "Henry's Demons." Patrick and Henry Cockburn are with me. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. I have in front of me a most unusual book. It's titled "Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story." And both father and son are with me. Patrick Cockburn, a journalist, Henry Cockburn, his son, have together written this book. Henry was born in London, raised in Canterbury. He attended King School. He received several awards for his artwork. And in 2002 during his first year studying art at Brighton University he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He recently moved out of a rehabilitation center to begin living independently. Patrick Cockburn is Iraq correspondent for the Independent in London. He's received many prizes for his reporting. Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMHenry, it's interesting to me that you call your diagnosis a spiritual awakening and not an illness. Tell us what you mean by that.
COCKBURNI think I've got -- my illness is sort of revelatory. I think I'm lucky to have the experiences that I've had and I've learned from. And that's sort of -- that's part of the reason why -- that's -- you know, I've learned from the experiences. It's been more of a spiritual awakening because I feel special to have the experiences that I did. And that's seen as abnormal, like talking to trees, stuff like that. But actually I feel special to have had the experiences I've had.
REHMDo you still talk to trees?
COCKBURNEvery now and again, yeah.
REHMYes, I do too. Every now and then I'll say to a tree, you are the most glorious tree I've ever seen.
COCKBURNYeah. I think they were around long before humans were so...
REHMExactly. What are your polka dot days?
COCKBURNOh, that's just when everything goes wrong.
REHMGive me an example of a polka dot day.
COCKBURNWell, I'm just walking around and I start seeing rings everywhere.
REHMWhat kind of rings?
COCKBURNWell, like the rings that you get on your finger -- put on your finger. I just start seeing them everywhere.
REHMAnd what then happens to you?
COCKBURNWell, if I'm lucky I've got a bed to lie down and, you know, pass the time away. But if I'm unlucky it means I've got to go find a bed.
REHMGo find a bed. Patrick, I can imagine that Henry's illness has profoundly affected your family, your wife Jan, who was here while you were away reporting many, many times.
COCKBURNSure, yes. I mean, you know, this is a terrifying cruel illness that affects millions of people and many more millions of their families. And it -- and it goes on for such a long period. It doesn't really stop. It sort of beats you down. So, you know, things have got better in recent years but initially Henry was continually disappearing. You know, once he spent two days naked in the snow under a tree. We couldn't find him. The local police were looking for him. This happened again and again. And -- but, you know, fortunately my wife and I were together doing this. I mean, I pity any individual person who tries to cope with this all on their own. I think that would destroy people.
COCKBURNSo, yes, so it was difficult to sustain over the years.
REHMDo you think it brought you and your wife closer together?
COCKBURNOh, very much so because we felt that we were sort of fighting for Henry and for his survival. And he has survived.
REHMAnd what about the rest of your family, his younger brother?
COCKBURNYeah, Alex, his younger brother, had to bear quite a lot of the burden of this because so much attention went to Henry. Now, this was something we could see was going to happen and we tried to sort of lean the other way not to neglect Alex. But it's almost -- there's only so many hours in the day. And if Henry's condition was really bad than inevitably we're trying to help him and so Alex felt a lack of attention because of that.
REHMHow is Alex today?
COCKBURNI mean, he's pretty good. I mean, he's been very brave about this. And once Henry had a very bad time when he was walking back to the hospital with Alex. But Alex is doing -- starting his PhD in physics in London. He's sustained all this.
REHMHenry, I'm interested in that you were found at least a couple of times with no clothes on in the snow. Do you remember why you did that or what it felt like?
COCKBURNI felt the trees sort of ushering me to take my clothes off, so I took my clothes off. And the sound of the tree and the tree started moving and the -- you know, I could feel it pushing against my fingertips and (unintelligible). And then it was marvelous and I was so sheltered from the snow a bit because the tree was sort of, you know, above my head. And I saw lights flickering in the distance. It was -- it wasn't quite, you know, me being in a snowdrift. I was sort of protected.
REHMNow, someone came along and found you there and helped you back to hospital (sic) .
COCKBURNYeah, well, I got out in the snow after a while and was completely naked (laugh) and I -- they sort of let me in their house and...
REHMStrangers let you into their house.
COCKBURNYeah. I've been lucky that way, you know, (sounds like) the wheels of fate have dealt me some hard cards. But also they've dealt me some lucky ones, you know.
REHMIt's interesting that what we do know about schizophrenia, Patrick, is that it does hit young people about the time it hit Henry.
COCKBURNYeah, it's sort of 19, 20...
COCKBURN...for young men and a little bit older for young women. Quite why it is nobody seems to know. And exactly why it's -- it hits one person rather than another, again there are pointers but it's not entirely clear. I mean, it's -- this is part hereditary. This is part brought on by different stresses.
REHMAnd perhaps even drug use?
COCKBURNSure, yeah, cannabis. And what seems to happen and what I don't think people quite realize is that 19 out of 20 people can take a certain amount of cannabis with no ill effect whatsoever. And then the 20th case, it can detonate a psychosis. And not just a lot of cannabis, but quite a small quantity of cannabis can do this and -- when it's -- when somebody has a proclivity towards it.
REHMHenry, do you recall how much cannabis or marijuana you were using before the onset of schizophrenia?
COCKBURNQuite a lot, yeah.
REHMQuite a lot.
COCKBURNYeah, I was addicted to it.
REHMYou were addicted.
COCKBURNPeople say it's not physically addictive but it's definitely meant to be addictive. And, I mean, just couldn't say no to it I suppose.
REHMDid you feel it begin to change you?
COCKBURNNo. I think the opposite actually - I didn't change during my adolescence because I was always stoned. So I sort of went -- you know, I didn't develop as a -- I didn't develop as a teenager. I would've had a bad time if I hadn't, you know -- I think it can damage people if they do it -- start too young.
REHMPatrick, did you know that Henry was using a fair amount of cannabis?
COCKBURNNo. I mean, I knew that he took it occasionally but I didn't -- I've never took cannabis myself. I certainly didn't realize the danger if somebody had a proclivity towards it. And I certainly didn't realize the amount that he (unintelligible) that he was taking.
COCKBURNAnd it wasn't evident. You know, Henry's saying he was stoned all the time but, you know, during this time Henry passed all his exams, you know. He won prizes for art, he had lots of friends. It didn't stand out. And even in retrospect I didn't see the symptoms. There was one occasion when he went on a student exchange to France and the parents complained that he'd offered their son to share some cannabis with their son. And so maybe, you know, I should've been on the alert but it really wasn't obvious to me and my wife that Henry was taking this amount of cannabis.
REHMAnd the question of whether there is a connection between cannabis and the development of schizophrenia is very much up in the air.
COCKBURNYeah, and there's pretty good evidence that there is a connection. But exactly how it works, like so much to do with this disorder, is still unclear. I mean, different studies produce somewhat different results. But it does seem more and more established that people who do take cannabis, and particularly from an early age, are more likely to suffer from a psychosis later.
REHMPatrick Cockburn, longtime journalist, foreign correspondent in the UK. He's currently the Iraq correspondent for the Independent in London. He's also been a Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times. His co-author is his son, Henry Cockburn. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 at age 20. He currently lives in a rehab center in London. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There are many callers who'd like to speak with you so we'll open the phones now. 800-433-8850. First to Leonardtown, Md. Good morning, Amy, you're on the air.
AMYI'm really enjoying this conversation and wish that I could sit down with Patrick and talk for a long time. I'm a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI and I was -- I have two things. I wondered if you have something like NAMI or NAMI in Great Britain. I've found a lot of great support and information and education through NAMI programs. And the other thing I was curious about is if you are aware of the work of the Treatment Advocacy Center that's in Washington D.C. and it's run by E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who's an expert on schizophrenia. And they promote assisted outpatient treatment, which allows families and people who are close to someone who has a mental illness to get them into treatment even when they think they don't need it so that they don't hurt themselves. And I know (sounds like) Pete Early is a big proponent of assisted outpatient treatment.
COCKBURNYes. I mean there are organizations in Britain like thesane.org, one of the charities. There's Rethink, another very good one. There's Mind. I found particularly Sane -- as I said when I was -- earlier, I knew astonishingly -- literally astonished me in retrospect about mental illness. So actually I received some very good advice early on from one of these organizations, Sane, very briefly was Henry was in a national health -- hospital -- it's just saying don't think there's a magic cure out there. That if you make terrific sacrifices, sell your house, that somewhere there's a clinic that's going to make Henry right overnight. It isn't going to happen. And (unintelligible) and they also said, look, stick with the national health (unintelligible) .
REHMPardon me. How about the cost of caring for Henry? To what extent is that covered by the UK's health program?
COCKBURNIt's all covered. You know, they've been magnificent on this. God knows how much money this has cost. But they've been very good despite sort of, you know, years of setbacks. They've still supported us and...
REHM...at one point you had Henry legally confined because you were afraid he'd hurt himself.
COCKBURNSure, yeah. I mean, the psychosis was frankly real bad, you know. And I thought, you know, we -- my wife and I thought, you know, he was in real danger of something happening. I don't mean that he was going to commit suicide, but he was doing things so dangerous that it was almost the equivalent.
COCKBURNSuch as swimming in frozen lakes. One time he rang up the hospital to -- one time he was leaving the hospital to go by himself but had a witness says that he had a mobile with him. And they rang him up and said -- he said, well, I'm actually on the railroad tracks at the moment, which gave us about three heart attacks. So this was all pretty frightening. You know, confining somebody -- you know, this was bad for Henry, but the alternative was so dangerous that we didn't really feel we had any alternative.
REHMAnd you continue to be concerned about Henry's safety?
COCKBURNNot now. No, this was sort of some -- you know, this was when it first happened and was pretty bad. Of course from Henry's point of view, I mean, who wants to be confined, you know, regardless of your mental health or not. So, you know, there was a purely practical reason for getting out of these places. And unfortunately, Henry showed some extraordinary ingenuity in getting out of any of these places.
REHMPatrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn, his son. When we come back we'll take more of your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMWelcome back. Both Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn are with me. Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002. Together they have written a new book, Patrick, the father, Henry, the son. The book is titled, "Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story." Do join us 800-433-8850. Henry, you kept running away from hospitals. You ran away more than 30 times. What did it feel like to run away? Why did you need to run away?
COCKBURNI felt sort of pushed towards that self frame of mind. You know, every time I ran away, I thought I'd lost -- on the street or in the wild, I thought that, you know, I'd persevere and I'd be able to live off what I found, but I never lasted very long. The longest I ever lasted when I ran away was about eight days.
REHMWow. That's a long time. What did you do in those eight days?
COCKBURNMe and my friends -- I went and saw some of my friends and we went camping and lit a fire and sort of talked and, you know, it was fun.
REHMSo you retained your friends even though you had been hospitalized.
COCKBURNYes. Some of them. Some of them not.
REHMThat's good. That's good. But then you always found your way back to the hospital or did people always find you?
REHMBoth. That must have been just totally horrifying for you, Patrick.
COCKBURNYeah, it's completely terrifying because we never knew what the outcome was going to be. I mean the police were pretty good at looking for Henry but occasionally they'd say to me that maybe they'd like to do something else with their time. But they found him obviously before he came to harm. But I think in -- I thought at the time that he was pretty lucky. Henry -- one of the things about Henry is that he remained very outgoing.
COCKBURNAbility to make friends...
COCKBURN...even when he was, to my mind, in the middle of a psychosis and so people liked him. People would help him. When you would think -- and maybe this shows people in a good light, generally, that they might be really frightened of somebody suddenly emerging from a snow field or something when not wearing any clothes or something like that. But, in fact, people were incredibly helpful and that was one of the reasons he survived.
REHMHenry, at one point your mother wrote in her diary that she felt angry with you for putting her through all this. She writes that, "It's like a game of snakes and ladders where they just painfully climb the ladder and now they're down a snake back at square one." Did you have any feelings of remorse or any feelings of sorrow for putting your mother and dad through this?
COCKBURNNo, I'm selfish. I – if you gave me a time machine and I went back to square one I'd probably do the same thing, you know. I mean, I learned a lot from going back to the wild ways.
REHMGo ahead, Patrick.
COCKBURNWell, you know, I knew Henry felt like this and it wasn't all a sort of nightmare for him. But I think he sort of – his memories are a bit rosy tinted; that it was sort of -- a lot of this was worse. I mean, I wouldn't have been so worried if I thought or had the experience of Henry being able to survive in the wild, to be able to feed himself, to clothe himself and so forth. Now, there was a good side to this that meant that he would, sort of, be picked up eventually before complete disaster. But, also, there was no comforting that he didn't know how – he couldn't look after himself. And he was rather extraordinary. He showed, as I said, great ingenuity of getting out of various locked wards which had, sort of, two locked doors in-between him and getting out. But once he was out, an inability to survive, which set in almost immediately.
REHMNow, among schizophrenics there is that sense of I don't want to take my medication anymore. An awful lot of people feel that way, I had learned. Is that how you feel, Henry?
COCKBURNYeah, I feel it's sort of, you know, a bit artificial and it's funny, like, it's actually when I gave up the drugs. I mean, there's a lot of talk about kind of this, but that's when -- that's when my -- when it all started to kick off was when I gave up the drugs. And that's why I didn't want to take the medication at that point. And, I mean, I did acquiesce in the end but, yeah, I -- I feel that -- yeah, it's a bit artificial taking -- taking tablets. It's just -- I'd like to approach things with a clear mind and I'm not quite -- it's been so long since I haven't taken -- haven't taken the tablets I don't know what I'd be like if I -- if I lived without them, but...
REHMWe have an e-mail from Sarah in St. Louis. She says, "I'm interested to know how Henry's illness has affected his art."
COCKBURNWell, my art's -- it's changed a bit. I use more vibrant colors than I used to and, you know. I used to be very much more detailed, but now it's all become a bit broader and a bit more sort of abstract figures.
REHMDo you like the art you're producing now?
COCKBURNNot very much of it.
REHMYou don't. You liked it better earlier?
COCKBURNSome of the things I like, but it's -- I'm still learning.
REHMWe all are. Let's go back to the phones to Lehigh Acres, Fla. Good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning. I was married to my first wife for 25 years and she exhibited some very strange things and I was told I should divorce her because I was enabling her. And then my son let me know here recently, this is now -- he's 42 now and he said, well, he'd been having trouble with depression since he was in college and I'm wondering if these things are passed down through the generations off and on.
COCKBURNYes. I mean, that's very well established now, I think, that there's a strong genetic element in schizophrenia. That if you have somebody from a family that's had suffered from mental disorders before, even if they're adopted as a child into another family, that this is likely to emerge. Not in all cases, but in many cases. But exactly what the genetic reasons behind this area is still very unclear according to somebody who was involved in research for the last 25 years. They said at the beginning they thought they must, you know, be able to discover exactly what happens over the decades and they simply haven't been able to do that. And, also, the role of other things that come into it.
COCKBURNOf stresses, of crises in people's life, of cannabis, yes, you can establish there are a connection, but what exactly is the connection is still an extraordinary mystery.
REHMPatrick, were you surprised by anything you read of Henry's?
COCKBURNYeah, I was wholly surprised because I thought that Henry could write vividly about this. One of the whole points is that I thought that, as I said, that somebody only inside a psychosis could write about it. And Henry described things to me in vivid terms but actually I wasn't -- I was surprised by the vividness that he could speak about what had happened to him. And I was also surprised of how this had happened before a psychosis was evident to us that various things were going on in his brain, which weren't obvious to my wife or myself. That, again, came as a surprise.
REHMHenry, were you surprised at anything your father wrote?
COCKBURNWell, my mother, how upset she was when I ran away and, yeah, that was the main thing that, you know, that -- I suppose selfishly I didn't quite know what my family was -- they were getting a torment because -- because of me, but no regrets.
REHMNo regrets. And living now, as you do, in a rehab center what is that like for you?
COCKBURNIt's -- I can think about places to be, but...
REHMAre you confined?
COCKBURNNo, but you get metal detected on the way in and you've got sign out and attend groups and -- I mean it's fair enough, but...
REHMAnd you have to take the medication.
COCKBURNYeah, the dreaded medication.
REHMThe dreaded medication.
REHMYou'd really rather not do that?
COCKBURNDefinitely, but I don't have a choice in the matter.
REHMI understand. Let's go to Springfield, Mass. Good morning, William, you're on the air.
WILLIAMHello. I'm struck by how many – not only parallels but identical experiences and situations members of my family have dealt with, and are now. Four out of five members of my immediate family have had major and have major psychiatric diagnoses -- close calls with schizophrenia. I mean with suicide, etc., and before going into any further discussion I would like to share with the listeners an organization of -- entirely of people who are diagnosed -- they're no experts and so on called DBFA, that's the Depression and Bi-Polar Association of Boston, but it is a national organization. And if listeners would want to find out more, what's going on in your region, you could call 617-855-3298.
REHMAll right, sir, thank you so much for that. And let's go now, after I remind you that you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show," to Collinsville, Ill. and to Lisa. Good morning, you're on the air.
LISAGood morning. I just want to tell you I'm almost crying because I have bi-polar disorder and I know what it's like to live with a mental illness and have people shun you. The statement is so phenomenal. But you have to understand that some of the greatest people on this planet, Vincent Van Gogh, Mozart were probably crazy, too.
REHMDo you -- how do you react to that kind of a statement, Henry?
COCKBURNI think it's too true, you know.
COCKBURNThe line between genius and insanity, it's, you know, it's a hair breadth away from each other.
COCKBURNI think, though, there's another point I make; one thing that struck me when -- surprised me when this first happened to Henry and to our family was how many close friends I had, who I thought I knew pretty well, when I mentioned it to them it turned out they had a close family member who also had schizophrenia or bi-polar, and they'd never mentioned it to me. And I thought, you know, why -- why didn't they mention? Well, partly, maybe stigma, but actually just -- it's such an earthquake in family life, people don't want us to bring it casually in a conversation. But I don't think it's a great idea for people to bottle this up.
COCKBURNI'm still astonished by the number of people...
REHMI know that you checked through your own family history after Henry was diagnosed. Did you find any clues?
COCKBURNThere was nothing direct. I mean, my wife's father's family, yeah, there had been, you know, some mental -- people with mental illness. My -- in my own, difficult to find any recently, though. I sometimes wondered when I did this, since I keep finding friends of mine who have relatives with severe mental illness that nobody knew about, do I have ancestors who had severe mental illness and they're just -- the knowledge was suppressed at the -- and I don't know at this stage.
REHMHenry, having written this book with your dad, what do you hope people might learn from it?
COCKBURNThat's a hard question.
REHMWhat do you think you've learned from writing the book?
COCKBURNThere's a ways of way out -- when you're in danger I always think there's someone there watching you thinking your all right. You'll be looked after and it's the same with, you know, you know, I hope it affects people in that sort of respect.
COCKBURNYeah, two ways, really, I think it's going to be -- should be very valuable for people who – to learn from Henry what's it really like to be inside a psychosis, which I haven't really seen written down before, from somebody who's, to a degree, suffering from it. And, also, the sort of millions of people who go through this and feel alone can see what happened to other people and, perhaps, benefit from that.
REHM"Henry's Demons" is the title of the book, "Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story," written by Patrick and Henry Cockburn. Thank you, Henry, thank you, Patrick for being here. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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