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ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children

Paul Raeburn

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, an estimated 20 percent of American children and adolescents experience a diagnosable mental illness in the course of a year. Some 6 million to 9 million of them have serious emotional disturbances that can have a significant impact on their lives, yet about three-fourths of these children fail to receive mental health care, making children and adolescents with mental illness among the most neglected and mistreated members of our society.

Veteran science reporter and writer Paul Raeburn's ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children (Broadway Books; May 11, 2004), a haunting yet ultimately cathartic memoir of a family stricken with the anguish of mental illness, sheds light on this hidden epidemic. Nine years ago, Raeburn's son Alex, then eleven, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after leaving his fifth-grade classroom in an inexplicable rage. During the next three years, Alex was hospitalized repeatedly and shunted from psychiatrist to psychiatrist, enduring repeated misdiagnoses and inappropriate drug therapies until he was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Four years after Alex was first hospitalized, his younger sister, Alicia, then twelve, was also admitted to a psychiatric hospital following a period of self-mutilation and attempted suicides. In the ensuing years, she too was repeatedly hospitalized as she struggled with depression and related substance abuse and disciplinary problems. Throughout this period of acute emotional and financial strain, Raeburn's marriage was disintegrating, and he was forced to confront the question of whether he and his wife might have contributed, through their bad parenting, to the severity of mental illness in their children.

Desperate to save his children's lives, Raeburn used all the resources available to him as a science reporter to educate himself about their illnesses and the drugs and therapies available to help them return from a land of inner torment. His family has now emerged from its exhausting and emotionally shattering ordeal. He shares in ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT a moving story that offers hope and practical wisdom for the hundreds of thousands of parents in America struggling with the child-psychiatry establishment.

Some of the important issues discussed in the book include:

  • The benefits of medication vs. therapy; does only the child need therapy or should the entire family participate?
  • The tyranny of the medical insurance companies
  • The common misdiagnosis of children with mental disease
  • The inability of schools to provide adequate education for special-needs children

A memoir of great literary power, ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT is destined to take its place alongside classics of the genre such as Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon and Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind. Paul Raeburn offers a much-needed message of hope and understanding to thousands of desperate families struggling to find the necessary treatment for their children.

A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children
By Paul Raeburn
Broadway Books/May 11, 2004/Harcover
$24.95; 276 pages/ISBN: 0-7679-1437-6

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