Random Reflections of a Looney Bin by Gordon M. Kerkham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Gordon Kerkham knows that some people will be offended by the term “looney bin,” but in his opinion, that’s what they were and what they are—and as such, that’s what they should be called. Too many “professional mental healthcare” centres, in his experience, are little more than dumping grounds for the people we don’t want to see or acknowledge in our world—those living with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.
As a nurse, director of nursing, consultant, and head of professional health education at a university, he has earned his opinion of the system. In Random Reflections of a Looney Bin, he lifts the veil that surrounds an area that most people are not willing to explore. Offering passage into a hidden world, this memoir shares his memories of life in a variety of mental healthcare facilities and his work with aged, handicapped, and psychiatric patients.
He writes in what he calls “true myth” style, meaning his reflections represent mostly the truth with some of the folklore and myth that accumulates through time. His aim is to show that these events all happened—and are still happening today in many parts of the “civilised” world. In his own experience and in those shared by caregivers in other locations, he has concluded that regardless of location, these facilities have more in common than most might want to believe.
MY REVIEW: Let me get this out of the way first: this book desperately needs a proper proofread and editing. There are punctuation and grammatical errors throughout that are incredibly irritating and detracts from the positive qualities of this memoir. Having said that, the stories are quite interesting and Kerkham can does a good job of telling them. This volume covers the author's training as a psychiatric nurse in the days when the main focus was on custodial care and up to the time when the transition was starting towards more professional approaches to the care of the mentally ill. The book is easy to read (apart from the poor editing). There are some pretty amusing moments and some pretty questionable staff. Check it out if you'd like a light, fun (and occasionally tragic) look at what mental health care used to be like. Let's hope the editing and proofreading happens in the next edition because, unless it does, I won't be reading the author's next volume about his experiences learning about general nursing.
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