Henry's Demons by Patrick Cockburn
Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story

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Synopsis

On a cold February day two months after his twentieth birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton, England, and nearly drowned. Voices, he said, had urged him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world in Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned from his wife, Jan, that his son had suffered a breakdown and had been admitted to a hospital. Ten days later, Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Narrated by both Patrick and Henry, this is the extraordinary story of the eight years since Henry’s descent into schizophrenia—years he has spent almost entirely in hospitals—and his family’s struggle to help him recover.

With remarkable frankness, Patrick writes of Henry’s transformation from art student to mental patient and of the agonizing and difficult task of helping his son get well. Any hope of recovery lies in medication, yet Henry, who does not believe he is ill, secretly stops taking it and frequently runs away. Hopeful periods of stability are followed by frightening disappearances, then relapses that bleed into one another, until at last there is the promise of real improvement. In Henry’s own raw, beautiful chapters, he describes his psychosis from the inside. He vividly relates what it is like to hear trees and bushes speaking to him, voices compelling him to wander the countryside or live in the streets, the loneliness of life within hospital walls, harrowing “polka dot days” that incapacitate him, and finally, his steps towards recovery.

Patrick’s and Henry’s parallel stories reveal the complex intersections of sanity, madness, and identity; the vagaries of mental illness and its treatment; and a family’s steadfast response to a bewildering condition. Haunting, intimate, and profoundly moving, their unique narrative will resonate with every parent and anyone who has been touched by mental illness.
 

About Patrick Cockburn

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Patrick Cockburn is Iraq correspondent for the Independent in London. He has received the Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting, the James Cameron Award, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism. He is the author of Muqtada, about war and rebellion in Iraq; The Occupation (shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2007); The Broken Boy, a memoir; and with Andrew Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. Henry Cockburn was born in London and raised in Canterbury, where he attended King's School and received several awards for his artwork.  In 2002, during his first year studying art at Brighton University, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He recently moved out of a rehabilitation center to begin living independently.
 
Published February 1, 2011 by Scribner. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Parenting & Relationships, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Henry's Demons

Kirkus Reviews

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A heavy user of marijuana in his teens, he describes his life during adolescence as “a sort of haze.” His parents had tolerated his marijuana use, believing the drug to be “fairly harmless,” and only learned during his hospitalization of “its possible devastating impact on somebody genetically pr...

Feb 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The New York Times

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The elder Mr. Cockburn dispassionately reconstructs his own mental journey in the intervening years, from his first naïve assumptions that Henry would recover and resume his previous life, to his final stark, resigned descriptions of Henry at age 27, living in a halfway house in London, a person ...

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The New York Times

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A memoir of a son’s descent into schizophrenia, written in alternating chapters by the Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn and his son Henry.

Feb 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The New York Times

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A father reports on, and a son describes, the experience of schizophrenia.

Feb 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The New York Times

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A father and son write about their experiences, and a daughter writes about her mother’s illness.

Feb 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The Guardian

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By the end, one feels that Patrick has achieved stature and human dimensions through his struggle to reclaim Henry, and that Henry's illness has brought them both to a depth of filial understanding that – though they would never have chosen this path – they could not otherwise have known.

Feb 20 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The Guardian

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(He asked himself whether this contributed to Henry's instability.) But Henry was capable of sitting naked for two days in deep snow.

Feb 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

Publishers Weekly

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This sensitive story of a family's battle with schizophrenia looks at the ignorance and stigma that often accompany any mention of mental illness.

Nov 08 2010 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The Washington Post

Comments our editors find particularly useful or relevant are displayed in Top Comments, as are comments by users with these badges: .

Apr 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The Bookbag

Category:Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn - TheBookbag.co.uk book review Category:Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn From TheBookbag Jump to: navigation, search Pages in category "Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn" This category contains only the following page.

Nov 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

The Bookbag

Patrick returned to England as soon as he could, to learn from his wife Jan that Henry had just had a breakdown, had been arrested only a few days before as a potential suicide after climbing the wall of a railway viaduct in order to get a better view of Brighton.

Dec 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

Psych Central

Patrick Cockburn, war correspondent for The Independent in London, writes this book about another war — the war against schizophrenia within his own son, Henry.

Jan 30 2013 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

truthdig

The banks deemed too big are more than 30% bigger than before the Act was passed in 2010, and 80% bigger than before the banking crisis of 2008.

Oct 22 2015 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

truthdig

Nightmares in which “someone I know begins to shrink,” becoming so small “they slip through my fingers and disappear onto the floor.” Nightmares in which “there’s a large pool of blood on the floor” that moves as if it’s alive, nipping at his feet.

Apr 09 2016 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

truthdig

Spock responds with one of the best lines in any movie, one that Leonard Nimoy himself wrote: “There’s an old Vulcan proverb ...

Feb 27 2015 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

Islington Tribute

You feel forgotten.” .

Feb 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Henry's Demons: Living with S...

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