Skip to main content

CR3 #27: Crazy All the Time: On The Psych Ward of Bellvue Hospital by Dr. Frederick Covan

In the early 90s, Dr. Fred Covan was the head psychologist at New York's busy Bellvue Hospital. Bellvue, of course, is where all the "crazy" in NYC eventually lands--where the doctors make their best efforts not necessarily to cure, but to at least help. It is a fast-paced environment, and anything can happen at any time.

During the year detailed in the book, Dr. Covan is advising a group of young residents, assigning them each to a variety of patients, and attempting to teach them how best to handle each situation that arises. The residents are a diverse bunch: male, female, rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, traditional, and radical. However, they are drawn together by their desire to help those who are unable to help themselves. Some of them struggle more than others. Some get too attached to their patients, others can't find a way to identify. They find their patients difficult, frustrating, and heartbreaking. Most of the residents eventually realize they are doing a thankless job that will never be done.

The book sounds depressing, but it is actually quite funny. Many of the patients are both pathetic and exceptional, and the residents' reactions to the patients' misbehavior can often be hilarious. And of course at every turn the administration is there to make life tough for everyone, whether be a shortage of Rorschach tests, a total lack of pencils, patient secretaries that either won't type or don't have time because they are wiping down every visible surface, or endless "diversity surveys" that do nothing but take up valuable treatment time. I even ran across the enemy of hospital admin workers everywhere: JCAHO -- the hospital accredation body, who exist solely to make sure every piece of paperwork that drifts through a hospital has its Ts crossed and Is dotted.

Sometimes, it becomes hard to decide who is sane and who isn't...though rollerblading naked through the streets, swallowing razors, and a self-inflicted pinking shear penectomy (go look it up--I'll wait) are certainly good indicators of disturbed psyches. There is a long and very interesting section about defining what is normal and what the goals of psychology should be. One resident argues that the goal is to make a schizophrenic patient take all her meds until her delusions go away--by committing her if necessary--while Dr. Covan argues that the goal is to allow her to function as best she can out in society while not being a danger to herself or others. It's an interesting debate.

The book is definitely a good read--it's well-written, fast-paced, interesting, and sometimes emotionally challenging. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in mental health work, or is just interested in a great story.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CBR9 #2 - Southern Gods

I've had Southern Gods on my TBR list for so long I no longer remember why I put it there. Was it a recommendation from Amazon? From Goodreads? Did someone I know recommend it? Did it cross my path as a "If you liked __________ then you'll like this too!"

Maybe I heard it through the grapevine?

I only know that recently, I happened to come across it on my wishlist and decided to go ahead and splurge on it.

I'm glad I did.

In 1951 Memphis, war veteran and leg-breaker-for-hire Bull Ingraham gets a new assignment: a record company has lost one of their employees somewhere. Early Freeman set off to deliver new records to radio stations, and has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. His boss at Helios Records is anxious to find him...and also anxious to find a mysterious blues musician whose music can do terrible things to the living -- and to the dead.

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Sarah Rheinhart leaves her abusive husband and returns to her family home, where …

CBR9 #5 Borgin Keep by Ron Ripley

I've read the entire Berkeley Street series, as well as the Haunted series, and I think this was definitely one of the better offerings. This time, former Marine Shane and his slowly growing band of willing (and unwilling) ghost hunting allies face their biggest challenge yet. While the ghosts of Borgin Keep are both very dangerous and very evil, Shane also must keep one step ahead of The Watchers, a ruthless and powerful organization who find him to be a threat to their shadowy goals.

As always, for me the best part are the characters. Shane and his ghost-hunting partner Frank (a former soldier/former monk) are joined once again by police detective Marie LaFontaine, who is a very tough woman determined to avenge a dead friend. I'm not as fond of Shane's girlfriend Courtney, but I understand her uses as far as character development.

The plot moves along quickly, and I found this book a little better fleshed out than a few of the previous ones in the series -- while I enjoye…