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Renowned Psychologist Stephen Hinshaw Discusses ‘Another Kind of Madness’

Author Stephen Hinshaw next to book jacket cover of his memoir "Another Kind of Madness."
Pia Navales
Author Stephen Hinshaw next to book jacket cover of his memoir "Another Kind of Madness."
Renowned Psychologist Stephen Hinshaw Discusses ‘Another Kind of Madness’
Renowned Psychologist Stephen Hinshaw Discusses ‘Another Kind of Madness’ GUEST: Stephen Hinshaw, author, "Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness"

At the height of the AIDS epidemic activists came up with a slogan, silence equals death. The same could be said for other forms of illness. Most notably, mental illness. The psychologist knows how silence about mental illness can hurt a family and the children in it. He set -- is out with the memoir about his father. Joining me is Stephen Henschel, the author of another kind of madness. We and you see San Francisco. Welcome to the program.Thank you so much.For most of your up bringing you had no idea that your father was struggling with mental illness. How we are able -- how were your parents able to keep this a secret?This was ordered by my father's lead psychiatrist who told him directly, if your children, me and my sister were ever to learn of your serious psychotic mental illness and hospitalizations, they will be permanently destroyed. You and your wife are forbidden from mentioning it. So, my parents had to do the acting job of their lives. It was as though, for three months, Six months and once a year, dad would vanish. He had been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night. We were not allowed to ask questions about where he was. He may return miraculously as if nothing had happened and no further Russians were allowed. When kids in a family know something is going wrong at home but nothing is said, their tendency is to internalize and take the blame themselves. Probably better than believing the world is a cruel, random place. When my dad came out of the closet, when I returned from college on spring break and told me about his life episodes, it was as though airhead rushed into a vacuum. At least I knew something even though it was terrifying about those disappearances and decided to major in psychology and devote my career to mental health and ending the shame and silence and stigma that permeates the field.Tell us more about your father.He spent a year with Bertrand Russell. He wrote a chapter in a physics book about Einstein. Dad had high accomplishments. Starting when he was 16 years old, he could not sleep for a few nights in a row. It was the mid-30s. He was very worried about the growing international fascist and [ NULL ] threat. He started to gain the belief that if he lifted his arms they would become rings and he -- wings and he could fly. The flight would send a message to the leaders of the free world to stop the Nazis. On a fateful morning in September of 1930 Six, he had a belief and climbed up the trellis and made his first flight. It only lasted a second and he crashed to the pavement below. He survived. He ended up, for the first of many times in a backward mental facility where the only treatment at that time was being chained to a bed.The doctors told him to keep quiet about his mental illness or it would permanently affect his family and his children? If he had actually been forthright about his mental illness, back in those days, what you think the consequences would have been for him and his career?Well, thank goodness he had tenure. He was a brilliant philosopher. He could not be fired unless he had done something horribly wrong. With most other positions, his behavior alone would have led to him being fired and then the family would've been destitute. Back in those days, mental illness and psychotic forms were the ultimate shame. Even today, with our seemingly more open stance, there is still a lot of fear of mental illness. The ultimate paradox is if people with mental illness get treatment recovery is a distinct possibility. The average person who gets good treatment shows a better effect than most people going to see their doctor for a physical illness the paradoxes, the silence and shame and mother that will exist prevent needed treatment from occurring and the vicious cycle continues.Does this sometimes cause death?We know, around the world, people with moderate to severe forms of depression have a life expectancy that is 10 to 25 years shorter than the average. A big reason for that is that it takes the average person with a mental disorder at least a decade to even get treatment started. I think there is a direct link with what you just said. The shame and silence and a lack of parity for mental health care can lead to untold suffering and impairment and early death.This also references the hope of mental illness what is that hope?If we become more open and accepting as a society as we have about HIV, about cancer, you never, in the 30s and 40s admitted to your relatives had died of cancer. That was a shameful disease you brought on through week moral fiber. If we had that same openness about mental illness, mental health could not be put on the back burner the weight it is. Funding levels would increase. Many people could recover. The ultimate paradox again is, if we keep not talking about it because it is shameful, the vicious cycle perpetuates.I have been speaking with Stephen Henschel. Stephen, thank you so much.A pleasure to be on.

At the height of the AIDS epidemic, activists came up with the slogan, “silence equals death.”

Psychologist Steven Hinshaw believes the same could be said for other forms of illness that are kept secret out of fear and shame, most notably mental illness.

As a child Hinshaw experienced first hand how silence about mental illness hurt his family. His new memoir is about growing up with a father who kept his mental illness a secret for 18 years.


“Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness” explores the struggles of living in a family with mental illness and the need to combat the stigma behind mental illness.

Hinshaw, who is also a professor of psychology at UC Berkley and vice-chair of psychology at UC San Francisco, talked about his memoir Tuesday on Midday Edition.