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Book Reviews   |    
Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey From the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope

by Randye Kaye; New York, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2011, 320 pages, $26.95

Reviewed by Kathryn Y. Raymond, M.S., A.P.R.N.
Psychiatric Services 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.640506
View Author and Article Information

Ms. Raymond is a psychiatric nurse clinical specialist in the Department of Nursing and Psychiatry, Worcester State Hospital, Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Serious mental illness disrupts the lives of people with the illness and their families. Ben Behind His Voices, by Randye Kaye, presents a view of a family’s odyssey while dealing with schizophrenia.

Ms. Kaye, author and mother, shares her family’s experiences with her son’s mental illness and their arduous journey toward recovery. Ben, a gifted and loving young man full of promise, began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia during high school. As Kaye describes, obtaining the diagnosis of a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia can be a long and confusing process. The personality changes that Ben experienced were gradual and, at times, seemed to mimic the chaotic hormonal and behavioral changes that come with adolescence. Kaye brings us into her world of emotional turmoil as she tries to manage her day-to-day life as a single parent in the midst of uncertainty about when another crisis would develop and create havoc within the family. In their search for help, Ben and his family found that navigating the mental health system can be a trying process of receiving different psychiatric opinions and treatment recommendations before a definitive diagnosis can be made. Unfortunately, Ben’s symptoms erupted into a crisis that led to hospitalization and commitment for treatment. This was necessary in order for him to be correctly diagnosed and treated with antipsychotic medication.

Dealing with serious mental illness is emotionally turbulent. Kaye explains that the process of accepting Ben’s mental illness has been a road of denial, confusion, anger, loneliness, sadness, and grief. The loss of a child’s potential and previous level of functioning must be grieved in order to move toward recovery and to redefine life’s goals. Another painful struggle for parents is their children’s denial of mental illness and refusal to take prescribed medications, which can lead to the relapse of symptoms and rehospitalization. Through education and the support of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Kaye was able to gain strength and wisdom about how to best manage Ben’s illness and to help herself and her family cope with its burden.

This book is a well written and compelling story of a mother’s unwavering love and hopefulness for her son and her belief in his ability to create a meaningful and fulfilling life by managing his schizophrenia. Kaye, bravely and insightfully, uses her experiences to assist other families in caring for their family members with mental illness by promoting education, support, and early intervention for diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Obtaining support from advocacy groups, such as NAMI, that are run by families who know and understand the experience of living with mental illness can become a lifeline to others on the road to recovery.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.

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