HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

USC Law Prof and Schizophrenia

The LaTimes recently ran this amazing and inspirational story about Professor Elyn Saks discussing her new book concerning her Schizophrenia.  The article reports,

Saks has schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder often characterized by social isolation, disorganized speech, delusions and hallucinations. She has defied the prediction of a doctor who once said she would never lead an independent life. She has even flourished, thanks to a strict regimen of medication and talk therapy.

Now she wants to dash the myths surrounding an illness that affects 3 million Americans: Schizophrenics aren't all emotionally out of touch, shouting and swiping at gremlins, shut away in hospitals. Like her, some lead productive lives with good friends, loving spouses and precious emotional triumphs.

At 51, Saks says, the time has come to reveal her secret. The San Francisco speech was one of her first major public forays.

Like the story of fellow schizophrenic John Forbes Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician whose life was portrayed in the book and film "A Beautiful Mind," Saks' life illustrates not only the stresses mental illness places on personal and professional relationships but also how they can be overcome. . . .

On Aug. 14, Saks' memoir, "The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness," was published. The secret was out.

As she prepared to address the American Psychological Assn. convention, Saks fidgeted.

"I'm nervous," she said.

Her book had received positive reviews. But there were hints of negativity: One USC worker told Saks she would have never gone to dinner with her had she known of her schizophrenia, afraid that one of Saks' delusional episodes could occur at any time.

Saks was speaking to her first large audience since her memoir had been published. She was never comfortable with public speaking, and her hands shook visibly as she took the podium, introduced by her old friend Steve Behnke.

When she finished, a lone woman rose to her feet, followed by more audience members. Quickly, the entire crowd was standing. The applause was prolonged and emotional as listeners lined up to speak with her.

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