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Is There No Place on Earth for Me?

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"Sylvia Frumkin," a highly intelligent young girl, became a schizophrenic in her late teens and spent most of the next seventeen years in and out of mental institutions. Susan Sheehan, a talented reporter, followed "Sylvia" for almost a year talking with and observing her, listening to her monologues, sitting in on consultations with doctors - even for a period sleeping in the bed next to her in a psychiatric hospital.

352 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1982

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Susan Sheehan

22 books13 followers

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5 stars
376 (32%)
4 stars
380 (32%)
3 stars
292 (25%)
2 stars
82 (7%)
1 star
35 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews
Profile Image for dianne .
630 reviews98 followers
August 12, 2020
Just SO good.

Imagine being passionate and brave enough to say - “Think I’ll spend a year of my life just following a woman with schizophrenia wherever she goes; staying in the psych hospital with her as people bite and scream all night, watching the effects of major tranquilizers, living in her dysfunctional as hell family when she’s not hospitalized...you know, Fun!”

I first read this book when I was an Internal Medicine resident at Mount Sinai in New York and had a one year old child. That’s how riveting this story is; that wasn’t a year with a lot of free reading time.

Schizophrenia is a horrible, terrifying disease. Imagine how frightening it would be to hear voices that aren’t real, have (involuntary) hallucinations; visions and people and touch that aren’t seen, or felt, by anyone else, to be neurologically incapable of feeling pleasure. It is no wonder that now, with our previous accepted reality being inside-out, people are more anxious, more depressed, more ‘crazy’. What if nothing about your reality could be depended on? Like ever? Yeah, that’s schizophrenia.

At one point when she is improving - perhaps because of medication, perhaps not - she waxes about her difficulty deciding whether to marry Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger:
“You know, it was fun believing some of those things I believed, and in a way, I hate to give up those beliefs. I’ll miss having those fantasies. There’s a charm to being sick. I like to be in the twilight zone of the real world. Absolutely real is getting up every day and going to work...When you know all those things exist for other people but not for you, sometimes it’s very hard to endure the not having.”

About her grandiosity, one of her many psychiatrists says:
“...she has such a high intelligence coupled with her grandiosity. If you see yourself going from defeat to defeat, and the next awesome chasm presents itself and you can’t cross it, maybe you stick with grandiosity in your head instead of facing up to your homeliness and awkwardness and limitations. I think she’s genius at being insane.”

About 10 years after this book was published, Ms. Sheehan wrote the end of “Sylvia’s” story in the February 20 & 27, 1995 New Yorker. I tore it out and taped it inside the book, but never got around to reading “The Last Days of Sylvia Frumkin” until now, after my second reading of the book.

If you have any interest in mental disease, our society’s completely inadequate ability to heal, and appreciate a subtle, penetrating passion for telling the truth, read this book.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
545 reviews147 followers
July 10, 2018
I confess I first approached this book with a voyeur's curiosity. The foreward, written by psychiatrist Robert Coles, Ph.D., quickly upbraided me for seeking titillation and thrills with its firm reminder that patients in psychiatric care are human beings:
Miss Frumkin turns out to be an extremely troubled person whose mind doesn't work, in certain respects, the way most other minds work. The labels psychiatrists use to set Miss Frumkin apart, the diagnostic classifications applied to her, are merely matters of medical convenience — or should be...She speaks strange thoughts. She behaves oddly. If many of us scratch our heads and dismiss her as peculiar, as unbalanced, as worthy of confinement, we will soon enough meet one, then another person who is similarly afflicted...The issue, then, is clearly the pain and confusion felt by millions of Sylvia Frumkins. It is the aimlessness, melancholy, want of confidence, irresolution, misgivings of all sorts, alarm, terror, and moments of outright panic that torment them.

This is a well-written expose which the passing of time has turned into a historical study, an account of a time when the DSM-III was the standard for diagnosing mental illness, a time when mental health facilities had just begun moving towards treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration and their practices didn't quite line up with their new philosophies. In thorough journalistic style, Sheehan chronicles the state of American psychiatric care in the 1960s and 70s, pulling in details of the socioeconomic, racial, and medical factors that contributed to where a single patient, Miss Sylvia Frumkin, a paranoid schizophrenic in the unfortunate minority of patients deemed "treatment resistant," finds herself. But Sheehan is committed to looking beyond the labels and capturing the essence of the person they might otherwise overshadow and obscure. It is a fascinating and especially vivid account of the history and development of modern psychiatry and mental health treatment.

"Do you know what it's like to keep coming back here?" Miss Frumkin cries out during an intake interview, her fourth of the year 1978 alone. "What torture it is to be sent through the revolving door again and again? The pain, the suffering, do you know how it hurts?" (26)

The pathos of observing an imbalanced mind is tempered by Sheehan's capable writing, which explains technical terminology with rapid ease and is salted throughout with shades of smirking humor ("In psychiatry, simple words are never used where complicated ones will do." [28] "Building N/4 was opened in 1932. It is a grimy building that appears at first glance not to have aged well, a bulding of which one might say that it had seen better days — unless one chanced upon a photograph of N/4 taken the year it opened. One would then have to say that it was a building that had had no better days." [38])

3 stars. While the human drama is captivating, the story gets bogged down with minutiae that drag the pace down (descriptions of buildings down to the room dimensions, minute-by-minute accounts of staff members' comings and goings, precise dosages of various medications, and so on, are repeated throughout). Sheehan takes almost too professional a journalistic approach, with the "who, what, where, when, why and how" covered so thoroughly they become kind of numbing. Overall, though, this book leaves you with a lot to think about after you put it down.
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,743 reviews87 followers
November 24, 2009
Susan Sheehan (journalist) made a study in the 1980s of Sylvia Frumkin, a mental patient diagnosed with schizophrenia who was hospitalized multiple times at various locations in and around New York. She spent most of her later teenage years (1970s) and early adulthood in and out of hospitals, dealing with auditory hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, violent and anti-social behaviors, and a host of other problems brought on by her illness. Sheehan interviewed the patient (Miss Frumkin), family members (her parents and sister, Joyce), Sylvia’s doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and others whose lives were touched by her illness in order to create this portrait of Sylvia and the mental hospital environment at that time.

Sheehan paints a picture of a chaotic and largely disorganized system (not unlike Sylvia’s illness). The state mental hospitals (like Creedmoor) were largely overpopulated and under-staffed. It was difficult to give patients the attention or care that they needed (and in some cases craved). Most of the doctors were foreign-born and educated and there were cultural and language barriers between them and their patients. Prevailing practices and attitudes regarding the medication of patients were to put patients on several different medications at a time, and then wean them off of them as their symptoms/psychoses improved (or if side-effects became too uncomfortable). Because doctors didn’t really understand how the medications worked, and because the individual metabolisms and physiologies of their patients meant they worked differently for everyone (and often differently at different times over patients’ lifetimes), this was sort of a crapshoot. In Sylvia’s case, these practices probably made her illness worse – doctors didn’t know or bother to become familiar with her case history, she wasn’t given enough of medications to actually control her symptoms, and life on the ward (and at home) was incredibly stressful for her. Sylvia is often described as “pesty” and “irritating” by those who knew her, and she often resorted to violence when she was frustrated. When she was able to control these impulses, she could be quite affable and charming, and she struck people as being particularly bright. In an afterword, Susan Sheehan writes that after publication of this book, Sylvia’s condition improved and she was able to go home to live. It’s difficult to believe that this period of wellness lasted any longer than others, but publicity after publication brought her to the attention of a prominent psychiatrist, who took on her case personally, so perhaps she’s finally receiving the care (and attention) she needs.

I’m still mystified by the workings of schizophrenia, which seems to be a catch-all for various mental illnesses that can’t be classified elsewhere, but which share certain similarities. I think the hardest thing to come to terms with (both for me and for psychiatrists during Sylvia’s time) is that schizophrenia can’t be cured. It can only be treated. The “bad” behavior of schizophrenics seems like something that an ordinary person could easily control – the impulses, the violence, the acting out. Why is it that some people are overwhelmed by these things and other “normal” people can deal with the same stresses and not have a psychotic break? There was one point where Sylvia really seemed to understand what was going on in her life – when she was seeing a therapist (a young woman, to whom she could relate) who understood her problems, was honest with her, and was able to get her to work on being her own individual person. Other doctors seemed to think they could improve her condition solely by throwing drugs at it (and then never enough medication to actually help her). Part of me wonders whether Sylvia was just a self-indulgent, irritating pip who never learned to deal with the strength of her emotions. Is that all that mental illness is? Or was she seriously crippled by a chemical imbalance (dopamine uptake deficiency)? After reading this, I’d like to find something more recent that gets into the whys and hows of schizophrenia. I hope some progress has been made since the 1980s.
Profile Image for Jessica.
392 reviews31 followers
October 29, 2008
Excellent inside look at how and why the system often fails the mentally and emotionally disturbed people it's suppose to be helping. Sylvia was shuffled in and out of facilities, her medication was changed almost every time she entered a new facility. So many of these doctors basically threw a dart blindly at the question of medication. Only one doctor ever took the time to read her treatment history to properly assess her medication needs. I felt pity for her parents and her sister. Although I also believe Sylvia's parents made alot of the situations worse, I understand that caring for an emotionally unstable adult who is violent and unable to comprehend logic and reason is often times impossible and sometimes you get fed up and make wrong decisions. No one can be expected to always handle volatile situations the right way. I pitied Sylvia, and I hated her at times and then immediately felt guilty for hating her, knowing she really couldn't help her actions, but mostly, I wanted Sylvia to get help. I wanted just one person in the mental health system to take the time to figure out her best course of treatment and not throw up their hands and say they can't help and pawn her off on the next facility. I found many decisions by the mental health facilities to be grossly irresponsible. I hope Sylvia eventually got the help she needed.
Profile Image for Tamhack.
258 reviews7 followers
June 30, 2011
This was a poignant picture of the Mental Health system in the late '70s and early '80s. A young girl and her family struggle with schizophrenia. How she was misdiagnosed and not treated correctly. The stigmatism that comes with mental health. It hits close to home, having a brother who has a mental health disease and spent much of his young adult life in a State Hospital. Hopefully, the mental health system has corrected the problems that occurred in that time. I still see people with mental health diseases slipping through the system even today. I see poly-pharmacy in the practice of treating mental health illnesses today. It is one of my biggest battles as pharmacist. I still think there is a long way to go in treating people with mental health illnesses and the mental health system and the way medications are used to treat mental health illnesses.
Profile Image for Abby.
1,425 reviews178 followers
March 4, 2017
Marvelously researched and riveting from start to finish. They don't make nonfiction like this anymore. A gripping and heart-rending portrayal of one woman's nearly lifelong struggle with schizophrenia.
Profile Image for Farah.
107 reviews
August 17, 2011
It was interesting to look at psychiatric treatment and how ideas about inpatient versus outpatient treatment evolved with the introduction of newer antipsychotics. The main character's experience of constantly going in and out of hospitals is still a problem that lasts today despite newer atypicals. I do wish the author had put the story in chronological order as it got rather confusing when the story started at a certain point and then went back in time and then went forward again. Also, I wish the author had added a piece that described how she got involved with this patient especially given how closely she was following. I was really interested in that aspect of the book and her experiences and I thought it merited a mention even if it wasn't the focus of the book. However, it really wasn't brought up at all.
Profile Image for Terragyrl3.
334 reviews5 followers
June 23, 2017
Clear a spot on your calendar because this book will completely absorb you for 48 hours! A writer follows the frustrating and jagged path of a schizophrenic woman through the New York mental health system over decades. Originally appearing as serial articles, the text was never given a vigorous re-edit, so the chronology is a little confusing. However, I think this enhances the merry-go-round heartbreak of this woman's life: institutional admissions, bad drug therapy, huffy exits, broken beginnings, failed ventures, and exasperated family. The family in this case is thankful to push for more openness about the nature and social responses to mental illness. If you have anyone in your life who ever struggled to stay mentally healthy for any reason, you should read this book.
Profile Image for Kathy S.
49 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2022
3.5 stars!

This should be essential reading for all mental
health professionals, and, thinking about it, all medical professionals too. I’m a psychologist and this personal account has been eye-opening for me too. It’s been educational, insightful and heart-wrenching. It’s also a great insight into the history of psychiatry and pharmacology in the US over much of the last century!

What a book!

As you’re probably aware, the book follows Sylvia’s life.

Throughout the book, you can see how she never had a chance of a normal life: a medical system that kept failing her, a dysfunctional family, inconsistent support and one of the most difficult to treat mental disorders, Schizophrenia.

My one criticism is that it’s quite long-winded and wordy, and could have done with editing to about half its length (in doing so, gaining clarity, rather than losing meaning) -
due to the (unnecessary) length, and some jumps between times/dates that got slightly confusing, I’d give it a 3.5/5.
450 reviews
Shelved as 'z-did-not-finish'
May 14, 2020
[1982] Another one for the DNF shelf. It's time. It's been on my shelf since I started it in August of 2017 and got about 125 pages in. The material is right up my alley, and it's a great piece of journalistic writing, but ultimately it was just too detailed. It's a super thorough case study, but there was just too much minutiae for me to want to stick with it for another 200 pages.
Profile Image for Laura Gessert.
119 reviews13 followers
February 3, 2023
When I first started this book I was critical of the writing style which finally makes sense 1/3 the way in . It’s one of those stories laid out to fall under your “ I cannot get too sad from this “ radar . This should be required reading in all high school to help us empathize more . Treatment rest start schizophrenia is not something I had realized was so large in numbers . This was a really honest look at how families are forever affected by mental illness.

The greatest loss of human potential is through
mental illness .

The lengths to which this author went to catch all the details of this woman’s life are beyond belief .
When you put off doing something you want to do in your life do it for Maxine who was never able to reach much less attempt her potential .
Profile Image for Nguyen Vy .
31 reviews11 followers
October 30, 2017
This is a detailed account of a bright but unfortunate schizophrenic. Like many other stories about people with this mental illness, this one is very uncomfortable to read and reminds us very much of what we, as more mentally well-off human beings, all take for granted. Perhaps what is the most unsettling for me to see is how most of the psychiatrists, therapists, and high professionals in this field were so confused, inconsistent, and insensitive in dealing with schizophrenic patients who were unresponsive to medications like Sylvia. It is also troubling that very few of them did spend any time to consider the patient’s medical history before writing off an prescription that often repeated the ones that did little help. Moreover, a great deal of this book presents how dull and horrible life could get in a mental hospital in the 60s and 70s and how much a psychological and financial strain it sucked from a family to have a child/adult with schizophrenia. This is a sad story to learn and it makes it hard to forget the devastating seriousness of this mental illness.
412 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2019
This is a good piece of journalism, I just don't personally care for a journalistic take on the life of a mentally ill person. Obviously Maxine Mason consented to this publication and, according to Sheehan, seemed happy with it, but the third-person perspective with a completely obscured narrator was just bizarre. It is a very honest look at her life and the conditions which she lived in, which I appreciate, but I did not find it empathetic by any means. It consistently focuses on the violence of the patients towards each other and the staff; while I'm sure this violence did occur, focusing on it so frequently and with such evocative language can only paint these patients in a negative and stereotyped light. And despite Sheehan's claim at the end that Maxine was as brilliant and bright as she was overbearing, rude, difficult, etc., I did not get that sense from this book at all. The incessant descriptions of her weight and eating habits were genuinely infuriating. Sheehan is OBSESSED with weight and mentions the weight of nearly every single patient, often attaching morals to it (wherein skinny = good and fat = bad, of course). It was so bizarre and unrelated to literally anything. Not to mention that her idea of obesity is truly absurd, calling Sylvia excessively overweight at 150-170 lbs for her height. Just ridiculous mentioning it at all, not to mention at such lengths and with such a low bar for what is "morbidly obese."
I'm sure that this book made some people sympathetic towards the plight of those who were institutionalized and, mainly as a result of poor treatment, remained so for the duration of their lives. In that sense, I'm glad this book was written. However, the above two points grated far too much on my nerves to enjoy it. The prose was fine, the general structure and subject matter was fine, but I would much prefer to read something where the mentally ill person who is the subject of the book has more control and say over their own portrayal and life story.
Profile Image for Meg.
46 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2022
Before this book I would have never thought such emotionless and factual writing would be able to make me cry. Is there no place on earth for me is the story of Sylvia, a very intelligent woman who begins suffering with her mental health in her mid teens and followers her seventeen year journey in and out of hospitals. This incredibly harrowing story granted me an insight into the fundamental issues within the healthcare system and how it is so easy for a person to become a ‘revolving door patient’. This truly incredible narrative was captivating as it was written by a journalist, Sheehan, who followed Sylvia for over a year even staying in the hospital with her to document her journey. I couldn’t recommend this book enough, despite its heavy subject topic.
Profile Image for Arwen Downs.
65 reviews5 followers
July 5, 2009
Despite the absolutely awful cover art for this book, the writing itself is wonderful. The narrative focuses on the "story" of Sylvia (it is true, so it's not really a story, since it's her life), who is one part normal twenty-something girl, one-part sad mental health patient, and one part Little Edie (guess which parts are the most entertaining to read.) However, Sheehan (who was a reporter when she undertook the writing of the book), also writes about the hospital Sylvia spends most of her time in, the medications she is prescribed, and the various treatments she is subjected to. Since this is all taking place in the seventies, a lot of the standard mental health care seems positively stone age. Equally disturbing is the public opinion and misconception of mental illness, which Sylvia feels acutely. I would like a follow-up, as Sylvia. . . uh oh. Have to work.
Profile Image for Judy.
3,095 reviews54 followers
September 14, 2019
This isn't an entertaining story, and I can't say that I enjoyed reading it, but it will stay with me. Sheehan has written a detailed account of 30-year-old 'Sylvia's' life with uncontrolled schizophrenia, focusing on the years 1978-1980 with added details about her earlier years. 'Sylvia' spent a significant portion of her adult life at Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in NY.

I did a google search to update 'Sylvia's' status and learned that she died in 1994 when she was about 46 years old.

I'd like to read a similar account of the daily life of someone with schizophrenia today. I certainly hope that their quality of life is better than the one described here.

Aside: Woody Guthrie died at Creedmoor in 1967. He had Huntington's disease.
Profile Image for Rachel.
364 reviews
August 3, 2017
This was an incredibly insightful look at schizophrenia and its treatment in the 60s/70s. I really appreciated Sheehan's matter-of-fact presentation, and the meticulous detail she gave on, well, everything. It did make it a bit tedious, but makes this a fantastic resource for both psychology students and creative writers (both categories I belong to :]). I do wish we'd gotten more of an understanding of how Sheehan got the information, and her place in Sylvia's life. I think it was a good choice not to insert herself into the narrative, and leave this as Sylvia's story, but I would've appreciated it in an afterword or something.
Profile Image for Lisa Oliver.
15 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2012
This book is a journey into the life of a woman suffering from schizophrenia. Susan Sheehan documented the tumultuous life of Sylvia Frumkin in a series of articles that appeared in The NewYorker and was later made into the book. Sylvia's story is a sad and eyeopening account of life with a severe mental illness. All through the book I kept hoping for a "cure" or some way for Sylvia to manage this illness in a way to improve her quality if life - even after having read the book I purchased the NewYorker article "What ever happened to Sylvia Frumkin" to find out...
203 reviews
May 23, 2013
I learned a lot, though I'm sure the book is dated. Certainly the writing style is old-fashioned, sometimes to the point of confusion. For some reason I find a conversation between "Miss Frumkin," "Mrs. Frumkin" and "Mr. Frumkin" rather harder to follow than a conversation between Sylvia, Harriet and Irving. The book also jumps back and forth between time periods-- this I attribute to the fact that it started life as a series of articles. It would be interesting to know if/how mental health treatment compares today.
1 review
September 23, 2010
Sheehan captures loose associations in a way very few ever have. This is a must read for anyone who wants to know what treatment for mental illness was like in one large hospital in the 1970's. It is an absolutely wonderful portrayal of active psychosis.
Profile Image for Debbie.
530 reviews17 followers
December 6, 2021
Using a fictional name, Susan Sheehan tracks the life and history, medical and social, of "Sylvia Frumkin" in her struggles with schizophrenia from it's onset in around high school. Sylvia was a brilliant girl and woman. Doctors remembered her, saying that most patients have personalities that are shades of black, white and greys but Sylvia was psychadellic colors in comparison.

Sheehan actually spent time with "Sylvia", learning her routine, her habits, her loss of rationality and the times it returned to some degree, only to get lost again. Sheehan tracks the patterns of differing medications and treatment plans used for "Sylvia". She pointed out that other areas of medicine have set practices for medicating. But since psychiatry is more art than anything, since one person's reaction to a particular medication can be markedly different to the same dosage on another person diagnosed with the same psychological problem.

It was a distressing read, in many ways, listening to behaviors of the hospitalized people, their viciousness. And knowing some can't help it. What intrigued me was the extent to which "Sylvia", when she was out of the hospital, was able to con people into helping her, giving her what she wanted, playing on their sympathies. Once she got what she want, she got intractable, not doing the things she had promised she would do if they helped her.

Sheehan was given incredible access to "Sylvia", her family and her full medical records since it was done with the agreement and support of both "Sylvia" and her family. One of "Sylvia's" doctors agreed to look over her medication history and comment on its benefit to her. Much of her time, when she was taking medication, she was under-medicated, by the doctor's view. Especially when she was hospitalized. In addition to the regular anti-psychotic drugs commonly known, "Sylvia" tried a variety of other treatment efforts, including mega doses of vitamins and including living in born-again Christian homes relying on prayer. Sadly, none of these really helped "Sylvia" for more than a brief period of time.
16 reviews13 followers
November 2, 2020
"The supervisor of volunteer services’ elegant Tudor house had been beautifully decorated for the holidays. The hotel residents were greeted, assisted in taking off their coats, and escorted to the recreation room, where they were seated at small tables. A dinner of barbecued chicken and barbecued ribs, salad, rolls, apple cider, and a selection of cakes, cookies, and pies was served to them. The hotel residents ate in silence. After dinner, they went upstairs and sat down in the living room, where a floor-to-ceiling tree trimmed with handmade ornaments and strings of lights sparkled prettily, and where a Juilliard student had just started to play the piano. Next, two Creedmoor volunteers sang and played the guitar. Then the hotel residents were asked if they wanted to sing solos. Miss Frumkin was the first to say she did. She sang “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” Two of the other hotel residents also sang solos. There was some group caroling, in which only a few hotel residents joined, and then it was time to reboard the bus. The hotel residents thanked the host as they filed out the front door. They boarded the bus and rode back to the hotel in silence. Over the following months, they often told their host that they had had a lovely time at his Christmas party. No one would have known it from watching them that evening. No one would have known it from seeing photographs that Mrs. Plotnick had taken of many of the hotel residents during the evening. A friend of Mrs. Plotnick’s who saw the snapshots said that they brought to mind a line spoken by a character in a play she had seen many years earlier: “Wherever I go, I take myself with me, and that always spoils it.” There wasn’t one photograph that showed a person who was talking or smiling."
1 review
Currently reading
March 27, 2017
A true mastery of journalism, Susan Sheehan documented and encased the story of schizophrenic Sylvia Frumkin in Is There No Place On Earth For Me?. The book was published by Random House Inc. in New York in 1983. It is the First Vintage Books Edition, has 333 pages, and retails for the price of $16.95. In this book you are taken through roughly two and a half years of Sylvia Frumkin life as she struggled through her schizophrenia, being in and out of Creedmore Hospital which is a mental institution in Queens. As a reader, you get to watch her go through her psychotic episodes, doctors appointments, and much more making it feel as if you are watching her first hand. Susan Sheehan does a fantastic job of capturing the scene so the reader is able to really get a grasp on the severity of the situation. This would definitely intrigue many people who really want to know about mental illnesses, specifically schizophrenia. I feel like other books that discuss mental illness never discuss in detail the psychotic illnesses and it is more so the illnesses that are more self harm focused. This book relays the knowledge that many people thirst for on these illnesses that make people actually “crazy”. Schizophrenia, along with many other mental illnesses, are viewed as taboo and this book makes it very real as well as the issues in mental institutions. Mental illness to this day is still not viewed as severe as physical illness, and those who do not understand how malicious it truly is, should pick up this book. Over all, it is a great read and I highly suggest it for those who have an interest in mental illness.
Profile Image for Katie.
35 reviews1 follower
March 20, 2020
Wow wow wow.

This book is heavy. The author gives exquisite detail of the main character’s psychiatric history. It’s sad that she had to go to so many doctors, each of which put her on different doses of different medicines.

Reading this book really put a lot of things in perspective for me. Mainly, the reality that so many advancements in the realm of mental health have been made in the 2000s, including psychiatry and the general public’s willingness to talk about/accept mental illness as a real issue. There are way more medicines now, and a better understanding of which medicines work for which people.

Healing and recovering from mental illness is different for everyone. It takes a lot of effort in a lot of different ways- diet, exercise, family/community support, caring and devoted therapists and psychiatrists, sleep, routine, and so much more. This book tells the story of one person’s struggle with mental illness, and it is quite an intense, long, and sad struggle. Still, this story raises awareness about the flaws in the mental health system at that time in history- including how psychiatrists did not study the patient’s history and instead just gave doses that, if they would have studied the patients history, they would realize were insufficient in the past. Essentially a lot of psychiatrists set patients back by not giving them proper doses and/or proper medicines. Sylvia’s story is sad but is also a story of what it is actually like to endure a mental illness without proper/effective treatment.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn lovell.
339 reviews
June 3, 2019
This was an interesting read. The formatting was a little odd with the flip back and forth in her life. The journal style writing also made it different than other books I’ve read in a similar style. Some parts of the book I found very informational even though it’s an older book. I had never heard about insulin comas as therapy and was interested to read about it. I was also interested in the conditions of the ward and was shocked at how things used to be. Parts of Sylvias life also sucked me in to where I couldn’t put the book down. Her family dynamic had a huge impact on her mental health and I feel like it was touched upon but not to the extent it would be today. It was a good flashback and informational. The explanations about the drugs were helpful but at the same time I felt a lot of repetition in the text. The emphasis on dates was a little confusing and I feel like if it was done a little differently it would have been easier to follow. Overall it was a good read. It’s not up to date for obvious reasons (published in the 80’s) but it still was great for learning how things used to be and how mental health issues were handled back then. I liked the idea behind the book and I’m sure it opened a lot of people’s eyes to how things were and why they needed to change.
399 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2020
I read The Collected Schizophrenias a while back (it is absolutely wonderful) and became interested in the ways in which people who suffer from schizophrenia are represented in literature and journalism. I also have a close friend who worked in a psychiatric hospital for a period of time and I was curious to see how many similarities to his experience I would find in the book.

This was an excellent read that establishes a baseline understanding for what in-patient and out-patient care looked like in the late 70s/early 80s for people with serious mental health challenges. I found it interesting to draw parallels between what things were like then, and what they are like now.

The journalism is outstanding and I have no doubt this book impacted many when it was released. The author advocates for those battling schizophrenia to be treated wholly, equally, and kindly by giving the reader a front row look at ...everything. It felt a little long but that’s only bc it was thorough. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in mental health issues, as well as The Collected Schizophrenias.
407 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2019
Is There No Place on Earth for Me? chronicles the life of a schizophrenic young woman and her family. Sheehan not only delves into the absolute havoc that mental illness renders on families, but she also looks closely at how mental health professionals treat the mentally ill. The result is a searing account of the travesty that is the American mental health care system. While it's true that Sheehan wrote this book in the 80's, not much has changed (unfortunately).

This book is a must read for anyone who works or plans to work in the mental health sector. It will be a definite guide on what not to do and also what to prepare themselves for. It is also a reassuring read for people who have loved ones who have been diagnosed with a debilitating mental health illness. It will make them feel less alone and more understood in their plight.

Profile Image for Seth.
116 reviews16 followers
August 26, 2021
Is There No Place on Earth for Me? is a chronicle of Susan Sheehan's time with a young woman diagnosed with schizophrenia named Sylvia Frumpkin. Sheehan details the fractious relationships within the Frumpkin family and the unfortunate problems schizophrenic patience face with trying to correctly and affectively balance medication. The epilogue and prologue give a vital and profound overview of the disease itself and hammer home the need to remember that patients like Miss Frumpkin are human beings and not damaged individuals deserving of lengthy confinement. Whilst the book does not give a detailed analysis of the disease itself, it does highlight quite brilliantly the raw reality of living with said illness by detailing the erratic and often illogical and confusing behaviour.
1 review
January 25, 2022
A really interesting and heart rending account of Maxine Mason (Sylvia Frumkin in most of the book), a schizophrenic woman. Looking at other reviews some people dislike the way the book is structured, which I agree can be confusing, but also that the author did not talk about her own interactions with Maxine. Which is why I would recommend the audiobook. Not only does it make it easier to digest (I don’t think I could have physically read this book due to its length and precise detail) but it also has a final chapter/post-script from the author which gives more details about her own interactions with Maxine and answering the question of what happened to her after the publication of the book.
157 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2023
This is one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. Reading it was an exercise in taking tangents of my own mind, turning them into one way streets with predictable dead ends and realizing that my braking mechanisms, rerouting capacities and abilities to choose are perhaps the only things that keep me (any of us?) relatively sane. Let me stress the word ‘relatively’. The Brewer and Shipley song, One Toke Over the Line comes to mind. This woman’s mind had no identifiable boundaries, except her paranoias, her delusions and her compulsions. Because I eschew restraints and the judgments of others, I found myself uncomfortably close to her lack of restraint and clueless freedom taking. There is a lot to take in as we journey with this woman through her pain and narcissism.
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