Monday, June 26, 2017

Stephen Hinshaw's "Another Kind of Madness"

Stephen Hinshaw grew up in Columbus, Ohio and attended Harvard and UCLA. A professor of Psychology (UC Berkeley) and Psychiatry (UC San Francisco), he is an international presence in clinical psychology/mental health, with over 320 articles/chapters and 12 books. He received a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001; his Teaching Company (‘Great Lecture’) series, “Origins of the Human Mind,” appeared in 2010. He has been recognized by the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (2015), the James McKeen Cattell Award from the Association for Psychological Science (2016) for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to applied psychological research, and the Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development Award (2017) from the Society for Research in Child Development. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife Kelly Campbell; they have three sons.

Hinshaw's newest book, Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, chronicles his father’s recurring mental illness and the doctor-enforced silence surrounding it, plus the huge need to combat stigma.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of the memoir:
The material is clearly cinematic.

My father, a brilliant philosopher who studied with Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, has periodically experienced wild bouts of psychosis and mania since age 16. As a teen in Pasadena during the 1930s, he believed he could stop the worldwide Fascist threat by flying, with outspread wings, to warn the leaders of the free world. Barely surviving, he was warehoused in a snake-pit hospital for half a year, beginning his life of high achievement intermixed with utter madness.

It’s now years later, and he’s a professor in the Midwest during the 50s and 60s, following even more terrifying episodes and incarcerations. He and his beautiful wife, who also teaches at Ohio State, are expressly forbidden by his doctors from telling their two young children—my sister and me—the real reason for his sudden, mysterious disappearances: His recurring madness and forced entry into brutal mental hospitals. Indeed, his episodes during that time endangered the family.

Focusing on Dad’s dramatic past and my own childhood, the film would convey the core tension: Life was idyllic, filled with school, sports, and high accomplishment, but simultaneously terrifying, as Dad tried to survive electroshock treatment and beatings and I scrambled to understand the truth behind the silence and shame. Like so many kids in families where danger lurks but nothing is said, I blamed myself for not being able to prevent Dad’s mysterious absences. During all of those, it was as though he’d been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night.

A crucial scene occurs in the early 70s. As I return home from Harvard for my first spring break, having convinced myself to draw away from the silence of my upbringing, Dad pulls me into his study and awkwardly starts to reveal his life of madness.

I now have a mission—to study psychology and solve the riddle of mental illness. Yet I’m simultaneously terrified, fearing that I’m next to become a hopeless mental patient. In subsequent years I correctly diagnose Dad with bipolar disorder and proceed to an award-winning career in psychology. Yet it took many years for me to break the code of family silence.

Who would play my father, the athletic scholar, the tender father, the madman given up for dead in some of the nation’s worst mental facilities? Alas, Russell Crowe could surpass his brilliant turn as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (indeed, my father knew Nash at Princeton back in the 40s): Crowe’s mixture of brutality, tenderness, and intelligence could reach new heights in portraying the life of Virgil Hinshaw, Jr., my father.

My mother, the unsung hero of the family, could be portrayed by Meryl Streep or even Cate Blanchett—conveying a will of steel intermixed with a forlorn hope for the innocence of the family’s earliest days.

My sister and I, as our younger selves, would be played by earnest child actors and, as we age, by Leo DiCaprio and perhaps Jennifer Lawrence.

Who could direct: Ron Howard or even—in a dramatic montage of families and history—Martin Scorsese.

Our family’s story spans the political history of the U.S. in the mid-to-late 20th Century, conveys my emergence into the world of science and mental health from the silent terror and stigma I experienced as a child, and offers lessons for the current need to maximize human capital by humanizing the psychological afflictions so many of us face. The film would end on a note of hope and triumph: disclosure of the truth can set us free and humanize those with mental disorder.
Visit Stephen Hinshaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue