Living with Schizophrenia
A Father and Son's Story
On a cold February day two months after his 20th birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the freezing water of Newhaven estuary outside Brighton and tried to swim across, almost drowning in the process. Voices, he said, had told him to do it.
Nearly halfway around the world in Afghanistan journalist Patrick Cockburn learned from his wife Jan that Henry, their son, had been admitted to a hospital mental ward and appeared to be suffering a mental breakdown. Ten days later, Henry was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Thus begins Patrick and Henry's extraordinary account of Henry's rapid descent into mental illness and of Patrick's journey towards understanding the changes in his son.
With striking candour, Patrick writes of the seven years since, years Henry has spent almost entirely in mental hospitals. Victims of schizophrenia are at high risk of committing suicide or killing themselves by accident and Patrick and Jan have lived in constant fear for Henry's life.
A unique feature of the book is Henry's own raw and beautiful chapters describing his psychosis from the inside. He relates with great vividness what it is like to hear trees and bushes speaking to him or voices ordering him to escape into the night or plunge into freezing water where he might die.
Together, Patrick and Henry's stories create one of the most compelling and nuanced portraits of mental illness ever written and an insight into the courage it takes to survive it.
Henry Cockburn was born in 1982 and went to King's School Canterbury, Wimbledon Art College and Brighton University. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 and has spent the following years in mental hospitals. He currently lives in a half-way house in Lewisham.
Patrick Cockburn is Iraq correspondent for the Independent. He was awarded the Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting, the James Cameron Award in 2006 and the Orwell prize in 2009. His book The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq was short-listed for the National Book Cricis Circle Award in 2007 and he is the author of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq.
Simon and Schuster
Authors: Patrick and Henry Cockburn