The Madness of Our Lives: Experiences of Mental Breakdown and Recovery

The Madness of Our Lives: Experiences of Mental Breakdown and Recovery

The Madness of Our Lives: Experiences of Mental Breakdown and Recovery

The Madness of Our Lives: Experiences of Mental Breakdown and Recovery


What precipitates mental breakdown? How do people experience such extremes - and how do they see others' interpretations and interventions? Most important, how do people recover from these episodes and get their lives back? These are some of the questions addressed in this anthology of first-hand accounts of mental breakdown and recovery. Ten very different stories together shed light on what triggers mental breakdown, what it is like to be 'mad', whether treatment helps and how people reclaim themselves and their lives. Based on tape-recorded interviews with people who have been through a mental breakdown and come out the other side of it, To Hell and Back breaks the silence around mental distress and offers hope and optimism to mental health service users and their carers.


Madness remains a taboo in most contemporary societies. Although we may think we have placed it under more effective control – by talking of mental illness not madness, by appointing an array of mental health professionals with supposed expertise in the supervision and treatment of people with a mental illness diagnosis – we do not wish to be too closely associated with mad people or to know too much about the realities of their lives.

But we need to change – for our own sakes and for the sakes of people who suffer the deep-rooted discrimination attached to a mental illness diagnosis. For these modern citizens no longer live behind the walls of remote and closely regulated asylums, but alongside us in the communities where we work and play. They are fighting for the same rights we enjoy.

Building better community mental health services will not be sufficient. Service users are social agents now. Only changes in social attitudes and practices will secure them the position they deserve. Real change must involve education to lead ourselves out of the suspicion, prejudice and fear we have inherited. in particular, we need to listen to the voices and stories of those with direct experience of mental illness/madness. They can show us the true dimensions of their lives. They can reveal that it is possible to live through the turmoil of mental distress.

In recent years, the voices of such people have won greater respect. As one of them and one of us, I warmly welcome this anthology of personal testimony.

Peter Campbell, Founder member of Survivors Speak Out and Survivors' Poetry . . .

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