September 16, 1983

Is There No Place on Earth for Me?

Author Affiliations

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Bethesda, Md


by Susan Sheehan, 335 pp, $14.95, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co, 1982.

JAMA. 1983;250(11):1469. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340110071043

With the exception of a foreword by Robert Coles and an afterword by Ms Sheehan, the contents of this book were previously serialized in The New Yorker. Therefore, the travels, trials, and travails of Sylvia Frumkin are now widely available. The basic story, one patient's involvement with our mental health system, is unfortunately all too familiar: multiple hospitalizations, first in private and then in public institutions; countless psychiatrists and therapists of various persuasions; a bewildering myriad of neuroleptic drugs, megavitamins, ECT, and even insulin comatreatment; and a family desperately seeking, grasping, and clawing at anything that might "cure" its ailing member.

The book is remarkable in its evenhanded, almost distant, documentation. Ms Frumkin's many hospitalizations and treatment at Creedmoor State Hospital on Long Island, NY, occupy much of the content. Therefore, it is another description of an institution that grew out of a social policy of the 19th century ("out