Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story
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Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story


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.

Title:Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:239 pages

    Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story Reviews

  • Petra Eggs
    Sep 29, 2011

    Forgive me my reviews when they descend into stories. Sometimes a book brings back memories that illuminate one or other for me and since most of my reviews here and elsewhere are unread by anyone exc...

  • Paul Bryant
    Mar 05, 2011

    Around 1990 my nephew had a psychotic episode. It was the culmination of a few weeks of increasingly eccentric behaviour. He grew up in a fairly happy-clappy Christian family (Baptist) but out of them...

  • Ang
    Aug 16, 2011

    Book was a bit slow. Patrick Cockburn seems unable to decide whether he was going to write a memoir or a mental illness education case study. What was truly powerful was his incorporation of Henry's o...

  • King
    Feb 26, 2011

    One of the books where I felt like it was a two or a four. I have developed a sort of endearment towards memoirs, mostly because I feel like the contents are... for a lack of better phrase, very human...

  • Marc Nash
    Jun 27, 2012

    A father and son take turns to write chapters about family life as the son's schizophrenia gets progressively more problematic. The son's chapters are the most interesting in a way, as his chapters ge...

  • Lisa
    Mar 07, 2011

    I was surprised at how boring I actually found this book (I definitely have to echo others who have described it as dry and not very engaging). On the one hand, it was nice to read an account of a fam...

  • Simon Jay
    May 12, 2014

    Rarely has a book brought tears to my eyes, but this simple yet effective account of a family struggling with their 20 year old Son as he descends into 7 years of mental hospitals, disappearances and ...

  • Jamal Hadjkura
    Mar 18, 2014

    This is a very matter-of-fact book, but it is also an emotionally evocative one. It tells the story of Henry Cockburn (co-author) who is diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 at the age of 20 (while an...

  • Randye Kaye
    Mar 24, 2011

    Henry's Demons is an insightful look into both the family experience when schizophrenia strikes a loved one, and into the U.K. System of care. As a parent in the United states, I couldn't help but com...

  • Sara
    Oct 12, 2011

    Interesting concept (the father and afflicted son writing alternating chapters concerning the mental illness), but poorly executed. The "history" portion of the book are meandering and do not follow a...

About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Oliver Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent.He has written four books on Iraq's recent history. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006 and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009.