Tag Archives: mental illness

Hope, Anna. The Ballroom.


1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors,where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom vast and beautiful.
For one bright evening every week they come together and dance. When John and Ella meet it is a dance that will change two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, The Ballroom is a historical love story. It tells a page-turning tale of dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

Publisher: Black Swan
Year: 2016
ISBN-10: 0552779474

Chekhov, Anton. [Coulehan, Jack (ed).] Chekhov’s Doctors: A Collection of Chekhov’s Medical Tales

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In his brief life, Chekhov was a doctor, essayist, dramatist and a humanitarian. He saw no conflict between art and science or art and medicine. This collection of stories presents powerful portraits of doctors in their everyday lives, struggling with their own personal problems.

Publisher: Kent State University Press
Year: 2003
ISBN-10: 0873387805

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Gilmour D, Waters R. The Wall

“The Wall is a concept album and explores themes of abandonment and personal isolation. The album is a rock opera that follows Pink, a character whom Waters modelled after himself and the band‘s original leader, Syd Barrett. Pink’s life begins with the loss of his father during the Second World War and continues with abuse from his schoolteachers, an overprotective mother, and the breakdown of his marriage; all contribute to his eventual self-imposed isolation from society, represented by a metaphorical wall. Waters conceived the album during Pink Floyd’s 1977 In the Flesh Tour, when his frustration with the audience became so acute that he imagined a wall between the audience and the stage.”

Plenty of different tracks to enjoy – but impossible in an education establishment (even a student-focused one) not to worry about that ‘dark sarcasm’ and  ‘thought control’ – Hey teacher…

Glynne, Andy (dir). Animated Minds


“Animated Minds was conceived in 2003 as an attempt to communicate the subjective experience of mental health problems to a wider audience. The idea was simple: to take the testimony of a variety of people who have experienced mental distress, and then to try to animate their experience. The result, it was hoped, would be a series of engaging short films which would give a general audience a greater understanding of what it feels like to live with various mental difficulties.”

There are seven films in total all available to view at http://animatedminds.com/the_films/

Hilborn, Neil. OCD

Recorded at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam in 2013.

If you want to listen to Neil Hilborn talk more about the genesis of the poem, his own experience of OCD and what he feels he has learned through the experience of the ‘viral’ success of this YouTube recording you could listen to this TED talk >click here<.

Campion, Jane (dir). An Angel at my Table.


In 1920s and 1930s New Zealand, Janet Frame grows up in a poor family with lots of brothers and sisters. Already at an early age she is different from the other kids. She gets an education as a teacher but since she is considered abnormal she stays at a mental institution for eight years. Success comes when she starts to write novels.

Year: 1990
Director: Jane Campion
Writer: Laura Jones, Janet Frame

Russell, David O (dir). Silver Linings Playbook


After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Year: 2012
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell

White, Antonia. Beyond the Glass.

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Clara Batchelor is twenty-two. Her brief, doomed marriage to Archie over, she returns to live with her parents in the home of her childhood. She hopes for comfort but the devoutly Catholic household confines her and forms a dangerous glass wall of guilt and repression between Clara and the outside world. Clara both longs for and fears what lies beyond, and when she escapes into an exhilarating and passionate love affair her fragile identity cracks.

Beyond the Glass completes the trilogy sequel to Frost in May, which began with The Lost Traveller and The Sugar House. Although each is a complete novel in itself, together they form a brilliant portrait of a young girl’s journey to adulthood.

Publisher: Virago
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 1844083683

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Galloway, Janice. The Trick is to Keep Breathing

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From the corner of a darkened room Joy Stone watches herself. As memories of the deaths of her lover and mother surface unbidden, life for Joy narrows – to negotiating each day, each encounter, each second; to finding the trick to keep living. Told with shattering clarity and wry wit, this is a Scottish classic fit for our time.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1784870137

Johnstone, Matthew. I Had a Black Dog

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There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.
It was Winston Churchill who popularized the phrase Black Dog to describe the bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life.
Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, has written and illustrated this moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel.

Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 1845295897

Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook

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‘The Golden Notebook’, the landmark novel by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, is a powerful account of a woman searching for her personal, political and professional identity amid the trauma of emotional rejection and sexual betrayal.

In 1950s London, novelist Anna Wulf struggles with writer’s block. Divorced with a young child, and fearful of going mad, Anna records her experiences in four coloured notebooks: black for her writing life, red for political views, yellow for emotions, blue for everyday events. But it is a fifth notebook – the golden notebook – that finally pulls these wayward strands of her life together.

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 0007498772

Green Katie. Lighter than my Shadow

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Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behaviour might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 0224090984

24page preview

Explore the website >here<


Redford, Robert (dir). Ordinary People


The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.

Producers: Ronald L. Schwary
Year: 1980
Director: Robert Redford
Writer: Alvin Sargent

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Figgis, Mike (dir). Mr Jones


The story about the relationship between a manic depressive man, Mr Jones, and the female doctor who takes more than a professional interest in his treatment.

Producers:Debra Greenfield, Alan Greisman
Year: 1993
Director: Mike Figgis
Writer: Eric Roth, Michael Cristofer

Hicks, Scott (dir). Shine.


Based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, this delightful movie charts the traumatic early years through adulthood. Telling the story in flashback we see David as a child prodigy and as he grows up while his patriarchal father abuses him and his siblings with the memory of his childhood in Europe and the loss of his family in the concentration camps. David finally breaks away from his father and goes away to study overseas, he later suffers a breakdown and returns to Australia and a life in an institution. Many years later he is released and through several twists of fate (in reality even more unlikely than film portrays) he starts playing a piano in a bar before finally returning to the concert hall.

Producers: Jane Scott
Year: 1996
Director: Scott Hicks
Writer: Scott Hicks

Cellan Jones, Simon (dir). Some Voices

The film’s central character, Ray (Daniel Craig), has schizophrenia. The story begins with Ray’s discharge from psychiatric hospital. Ray’s devoted brother Pete (David Morrissey) picks him up and drives Ray to his new abode, the spare room in Pete’s West London flat. Pete is a chef who works long hours in the café (a traditional ‘greasy spoon’ during the day and a trendy eatery in the evening) that he inherited from his father. He now has to find the time to take care of Ray and monitor the medication that controls the voices in his head.

Producers: Damian Jones, Graham Broadbent
Year: 2000
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Writer: Joe Penhall

Mangold, James (dir). Girl Interrupted.

Based on writer Susanna Kaysen’s account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s.

Producers: Douglas Wick, Cathy Konrad, Winona Ryder (executive), Carol Bodie (executive)
Year: 1999
Director: James Mangold
Writers: James Mangold, Linda Loomer, Anna Hamilton Palmer

Bhave, Sumitra; Sukthankar, Sunil (dirs). Devrai

Devrai is the story of Shesh Shahi (Atul Kulkarni), a brilliant but eccentric man. While living with his family in a village in the Konkan region of the state of Maharashtra in India, Shesh becomes increasingly obsessed with a small patch of forest near his home which he calls as “Devrai” (meaning ‘sacred grove’ in Marathi) and starts o feel that the perfect harmony between the biological factors in Devrai offer a solution to the chaos which he perceives in the outside world. He is later diagnosed with schizophrenia and his younger sister Seena Gore (Sonali Kulkarni) tries to cure him by seeking professional help.

Producers: Schizophrenia Awareness Association
Year: 2004
Director: Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar

Penhall, Joe. Blue/Orange

This TV Play is made available via the Education Recording Agency (ERA) licence, as such the following link will only work via a computer on the HYMS network.

>click here<

Chris has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder following a psychotic episode. After 28 days in the care of young registrar Dr. Bruce Flaherty he is due to be released, but Bruce fears that his patient’s belief that his father is Idi Amin, and the fact that he insists that oranges are blue, are warning signs of schizophrenia. If Chris is released into the community he could well suffer a terrible breakdown. The scene is set for a struggle with senior consultant Dr. Robert Smith who sees Chris as ready to leave.

Dr Bill Laughey HYMS:  There is a very interesting modern play which is very medical: Blue Orange, by Joe Penhall. Written about 10 years ago it premiered at The National with Bill Nighy in the lead role.
It is about an older and a younger psychiatrist and a black patient who is under their care. There is a whole interesting argument about what schizophrenia is and does the patient have it or can his beliefs be explained on cultural rather than psychiatric grounds. Blurring the argument is the fact that the older pyschiatirst is under financial pressure to discharge him. There’s a lot of alpha male arguing between the two doctors and dodgy careers advice from the older to the younger. There are times when you wonder who is maddest – the doctors or the patient? 

The blurb puts it like this: BLUE/ORANGE is an incendiary tale of race, madness and a Darwinian power struggle at the heart of a dying National Health Service.

I rate it as a must-see for any doctor, anyone interested in the NHS, and anyone who just likes a jolly good play.


Part of collection “The Methuen drama book of twenty-first century British plays / edited by Aleks Sierz”

McEwan, I. Enduring Love

Joe planned a postcard-perfect afternoon in the English countryside to celebrate his lover’s return after six weeks in the States. The perfect day turns to nightmare, however, when they are involved in freak ballooning accident in which a boy is saved but a man is killed.  In itself, the accident would change the couple and the survivors’ lives, filling them with an uneasy combination of shame, happiness, and endless self-reproach. But fate has far more unpleasant things in store for Joe. Meeting the eye of fellow rescuer Jed Parry, for example, turns out to be a very bad move. For Jed is instantly obsessed, making the first of many calls to Joe and Clarissa’s London flat that very night.

Author: McEwan, Ian
Title: Enduring Love
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0099276585

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Viewer Comments:


Great actors in the film….Daniel Craig and Rhys Ifans…but it’s really rubbish. Hope the book is better.


I thought the book was great. As well as being a griping story (partly about a man with a rare mental illness) it’s also a touching portrait of what can happen to a seemingly stable relationship when it is put under great pressure.

Mabey, R. Nature Cure

In the last year of the old millennium, Richard Mabey, Britain’s foremost nature writer, fell into a severe depression. For two years, he did little more than lie in bed with his face to a wall. He could neither work nor play. His money ran out. Worst of all, the natural world – which since childhood had been a source of joy and inspiration for him – became meaningless. Then, cared for by friends, he gradually recovered. He fell in love. Out of necessity as much as choice he moved to East Anglia. And he started to write again.This remarkable book is an account of that first year of a new life.

Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0099531828

Woolf, V. Mrs Dalloway

On a June morning in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway is preparing for a party and remembering her past. Elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is suffering from shell-shock and on the brink of madness. Their days interweave and their lives converge as the party reaches its glittering climax. Here, Virginia Woolf perfected the interior monologue and the novel’s lyricism and accessibility have made it one of her most popular works.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN-10: 0141182490

Viewer Comments:


For good or ill this novel forces you to get, and stay, inside people’s heads. Told almost entirely through internal monologue, moving across a range of characters and the events of a single day, the novel includes a number of health and medical references. Central to this is the character of ‘shell-shocked’ Septimus Smith, the description of his thoughts and the two doctors involved in his care (apparently an amalgam of Woolf’s own psychiatrists). I think the following quote gives you a sense of the way in which she captures his disturbed thinking:

[Smith and his young Italian wife, Rezia, are in Regent’s Park, the section starts with her thoughts and then moves to Septimus’s. ‘Evans’ was Smith’s officer during the war, killed shortly before the Armistice]

For he was gone, she thought–gone, as he threatened, to kill himself–to throw himself under a cart!  But no; there he was; still sitting alone on the seat, in his shabby overcoat, his legs crossed, staring, talking aloud.

Men must not cut down trees.  There is a God.  (He noted such revelations on the backs of envelopes.)  Change the world.  No one kills from hatred.  Make it known (he wrote it down).  He waited. He listened.  A sparrow perched on the railing opposite chirped Septimus, Septimus, four or five times over and went on, drawing its notes out, to sing freshly and piercingly in Greek words how there is no crime and, joined by another sparrow, they sang in voices prolonged and piercing in Greek words, from trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.

There was his hand; there the dead.  White things were assembling behind the railings opposite. But he dared not look.  Evans was behind the railings!

“What are you saying?”
said Rezia suddenly, sitting down by him.”

Wolpert, L. Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression

Lewis Wolpert is Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College, London. Several years ago he had a severe depressive episode and could think only of suicide. His erudite and informative Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression is therefore written with the empathy of someone with real knowledge of the mood disorder, but also with scientific cynicism.

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0571207278

Thompson, Harry. This Thing of Darkness

In 1831 Charles Darwin set off in HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy on a voyage that would change the world.  Tory aristocrat Fitzroy was a staunch Christian who believed in the sanctity of the individual in a world created by God: Darwin the liberal cleric and natural historian went on to develop a theory of evolution that would cast doubt on the truth of the Bible and the descent of man.  The friendship forged during their epic expeditions on land and sea turned into bitter enmity as Darwin’s theories threatened to destroy everything Fitzroy stood for…
Janine Henderson HYMS: A great book tracing the intertwining lives of Charles Darwin and Robert FitzRoy who was the brilliant captain of the Beagle, who shared a cabin with Darwin for 5 years whilst his ship was charting out new maps of the South Atlantic for the Admiralty. The book touches on so many themes: Darwin’s “discoveries” and his increasingly heretical views which challenged everything that FitzRoy believed in, religious arguments, racism and bigotry and Fitzroy`s mental illness. Would recommend it because it is so well written and thought provoking.

Publisher: Headline Review
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 0755302818

Leudar, Ivan, Thomas, Philip. Voices of Reason, Voices of Insanity: Studies of Verbal Hallucinations

Records of people experiencing verbal hallucinations or ‘hearing voices’ can be found throughout history. Voices of Reason, Voices of Insanity examines almost 2,800 years of these reports including Socrates, Schreber and Pierre Janet’s “Marcelle”, to provide a clear understanding of the experience and how it may have changed over the millenia. Through six cases of historical and contemporary voice hearers, Leudar and Thomas demonstrate how the experience has metamorphosed from being a sign of virtue to a sign of insanity, signalling such illnesses as schizophrenia or dissociation.

They argue that the experience is interpreted by the voice hearer according to social categories conveyed through language, and is therefore best studied as a matter of language use. Controversially, they conclude that ‘hearing voices’ is an ordinary human experience which is unfortunately either mystified or pathologised.

Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2000
ISBN-10: 0415147875

Hill, Selima. Lou-Lou

Selima Hill has twice re-entered the underworld of mental breakdown through her poetry. Her earlier Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness presented the strange diaries of a young girl before, during and after her treatment at a psychiatric hospital. In her recent collection, Bunny, she opened another door on madness, revisiting the haunted house of an adolescence cut short by breakdown. Now, in Lou-Lou, she goes back in time to meet her earlier self, sharing her pain, bewilderment and outrage as she retraces her steps through the institutional labyrinth.

Publisher: Bloodaxe Books Ltd
Year: 2004
ISBN-10: 1852246715

Kesey, K. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestis the seminal novel of the 1960s that has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the awesome powers that keep them all imprisoned.

Author: Kesey, Ken
Title: One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2006
ISBN: 0141024879

The film version of the book came out in 1975 and has a fantastic performance from Jack Nicholson at its heart, for a look at the trailer click here…

Director: Forman, Milos
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Year: 1975

video cassette



Gilman, CP. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

Fictional account of one woman’s experience of ‘hysteria’ in the early twentieth century.

Title: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Author: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins
Publisher: Dover Publications Inc
Year: 1998
ISBN: 0486298574

Viewer Comments:


This is a really interesting story and one of the best explorations of psychiatric illness I’ve come across. I can’t remember all the details but I think the story is fairly autobiographical, about the authors own experience of postnatal depression (and psychosis?) compounded by the ideas about psychiatry and women) at the time.
On becoming depressed after the birth of her child the character is shut away for ‘rest’ in a kind of solitary confinement. With nothing else to do she begins to fixate on the yellow wallpaper in the her room. (Its better than it sounds!)

Even if you ignore the psychiological element this is a great wee gothic story. The added depth of mental illness under the guise of the supernatural reminds me of ‘the turn of the screw’ by James, another good, short read which was written around the same period


A short, short story that packs a lot in – you could read it for the gothic E.A. Poe feel, for the feminist critique of male and medical dominance, for the striking visual motif of that patchy yellow wallpaper, for the ‘descent’ into madness. I’ve just read it in the time it took to take a bath – so don’t worry that this is a lengthy tome!

Edwards, Richey. 4st 7lb

As Stuart Flannagan says in his BMJ piece (see ‘Medical Classics’ link below) “This song from the Manic Street Preachers’ 1994 album The Holy Bible is an uncompromising account of life with anorexia nervosa, with lyrics written by the band’s guitarist, Richey Edwards.

4st 7lb

I eat too much to die
And not enough to stay alive
I’m sitting in the middle waiting

Days since I last pissed
Cheeks sunken and despaired
So gorgeous sunk to six stone
Lose my only remaining home

See my third rib appear
A week later all my flesh disappears
Stretching taut, cling-film on bone
I’m getting better

Karen says I’ve reached my target weight
Kate and Emma and Kristin know it’s fake
Problem is diet’s not a big enough word
I wanna be so skinny that I rot from view

I want to walk in the snow
And not leave a footprint
I want to walk in the snow
And not soil its purity

Stomach collapsed at five
Lift up my skirt my sex is gone
Naked and lovely and 5st. 2
May I bud and never flower

My vision’s getting blurred
But I can see my ribs and I feel fine
My hands are trembling stalks
And I can feel my breasts are sinking

Mother tries to choke me with roast beef
And sits savouring her sole Ryvita
That’s the way you’re built my father said
But I can change, my cocoon shedding

I want to walk in the snow
And not leave a footprint
I want to walk in the snow
And not soil its purity

Kate and Kristin and Kit Kat
All things I like looking at
Too weak to fuss, too weak to die
Choice is skeletal in everybody’s life

I choose my choice, I starve to frenzy
Hunger soon passes and sickness soon tires
Legs bend, stockinged I am Twiggy
And I don’t mind the horror that surrounds me

Self-worth scatters, self-esteem’s a bore
I long since moved to a higher plateau
This discipline’s so rare so please applaud
Just look at the fat scum who pamper me so

Yeh 4st. 7, an epilogue of youth
Such beautiful dignity in self-abuse
I’ve finally come to understand life
Through staring blankly at my navel

Barker, P. Regeneration Trilogy


The Regeneration Trilogy is a series of three novels by Pat Barker on the subject of the First World War.

Author: Barker, Pat
Title: Regeneration Trilogy


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The Eye in the Door

The Ghost Road

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Viewer Comments:


Much of the first of these three novels ‘Regeneration’ is set at Craiglockhart, once a ‘hydropathic hotel’ but taken over as a military hospital in 1916.

There’s a nice link (http://www2.napier.ac.uk/warpoets/index.htm) both to some of the history of the building (which is now part of Napier University), but also to the individuals who were treated there.

Howard, Ron (dir). A Beautiful Mind.

Mike Hardey HYMS: Russell Crowe (oddly) plays John Forbes Nash a brilliant mathematician and economist. His real life was forever changed when he developed schizophrenia.

Director: Ron Howard
Studio:    Universal
Year: 2001

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button_hyms (teaching resource – coping with a partner’s illness)