Beyond Crazy: Journeys Through Mental Illness


296 pages
ISBN 0-7710-8069-7
DDC 616.89'0092'271




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


In 2001, journalists Julia Nunes and Scott Simmie published The Last
Taboo, a critically acclaimed study of mental illness and Canada’s
mental-health system. This follow-up volume, which has received the
Canadian Mental Health Association’s stamp of approval, presents the
personal stories of Canadians who have either experienced mental illness
themselves or observed its devastating effects in family members.

The profiles are an eclectic mix. Actress Margot Kidder discusses her
much-publicized 1996 breakdown and subsequent adoption of orthomolecular
medicine to treat her bipolar affective disorder. Former federal finance
minister Michael Wilson explains how the stigma associated with mental
illness contributed to his son’s suicide. Patricia Van Tighem
describes her struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder following a
horrific bear attack. Radio broadcaster Andy Barrie and Chatelaine
editor Rona Maynard recount their experiences of depression. Former
tennis star Carling Bassett-Seguso talks about her battle with anorexia
and bulimia. Novelist Donna Morrissey offers vivid descriptions of
anxiety disorder. Former health-care administrator Katherine Best
discusses the bipolar disorder that led to her own institutionalization
and shocking discovery of “what life was like on the other side.”

The sundry failures of the mental-health system—a recurring
theme—is illustrated by the following comments drawn from the
profiles: “[A]s a patient, oh my Lord, you’re totally
depersonalized.” “[S]ome in the medical profession … completely
disregarded any role by partners, friends, or family.” “For all
their chemical wizardry and advanced technology, the one thing they
repeatedly deny me is a compassionate human voice.” “It would have
been nice if the ‘system’ had offered some acknowledgement of our
family’s struggles.”

On a positive note, the book dispenses a wealth of information about
new research and various treatment options that have the potential to
greatly improve the lives of people with mental disorders and those
involved in their care.


Nunes, Julia, and Scott Simmie., “Beyond Crazy: Journeys Through Mental Illness,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,