Hidden Valley Road tells the story of a family with twelve children where six of the boys had schizophrenia. Not only did six of the children have schizophrenia they had treatment resistant schizophrenia. And a Catholic priest who was a close ‘family friend’ sexually molested the boys. This family was devasted by all the misfortune. Half of the story is about how growing up in this terrbily afflicted family affected the two well sisters. Very understanadbly the sisters have emotional scars. They were abused by the brothers and terrified to be around them. They were neglected by their parents as the parents were always dealing with the ill brothers.
I skimmed a lot of this book as I found the book too painful to read. There seemed to be some blaming of the father for being a bad father and bad husband but he never got to tell his side of the story. Focusing on the dad’s faults was somewhat of a non-sequitur as the behavioral imperfections of the dad did not bring the blows of fate down on the family.
To some extent this book seemed like an after battle analysis but there is no way that a lot of the battles the family lost could have been won. The parents could and should have kept a closer eye on the children but there were 12 children whereby keeping a close eye on the children presented terrific difficulties.
The book points out that extensive use of mental health services does not guarantee good outcomes or even acceptable outcomes. The six schizophrenic brothers all had terrible side-effects, causing deaths in couple of instances, from their medications which were frequently prescribed in outrageous combinations. One of the brothers is given weekly ECT and could be a character in One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. He emphasizes now every chance he gets that he is totally compliant. Multiple antpsychotics were prescibed at the same time which makes no sense as there are only so many dopamine receptors to fill. Expecting too much from the mental health system can be disastorous as then lots and lots of treatment will be given but too much treatment can severely impact the quality of life of patients. Safe for themselves and others should be the goal aimed at. The brothers were all too frequently not safe for themselves and others.
The goal of the book in addressing the genetic aspects of schizophrenia was most likely to suggest that there was a very distant light at the end of the tunnel. However, in terms of treatment genetic studies do not seem at all helpful though genetics is an area that had to be explored in terms of the etiology of schizoprenia.
What I think must be underlined is that the portrait of this family is not a typical portrait of family amidst which there is schizophrenia. There were six children in this family with schizophrenia all with treatment resistant schizophrenia. 30% of individuals with schizophrenia are treatment resistant which leaves 70% who respond to treatment. They can give TED talks graduate from college etc. and may not be high functioning ‘economic units’ but can be very decent, interesting individuals.