Guest Post Michael Offutt, Author of SLIPSTREAM

Please welcome Michael Offutt, author of SLIPSTREAM, to my blog. He’s a gentleman and a scholar and I’m honored to host him today.

Since I’m guest posting on a blog run by a Psychiatrist, I thought I’d talk about mental illness.  What I say isn’t medical. It’s personal. It’s the relationship between my mother and me.

Recently I made the decision to put my mother in a care facility (this was really hard).  At the time I’m writing this post, my small family believes that it should be an assisted living complex and not necessarily a nursing home. But I don’t know if that will work. My mom has pretty severe schizophrenia. She constantly speaks to people who aren’t there, she refuses to take meds, and becomes enraged to the point of racing around the house all night looking for things and calling people horrible names.  My dad can’t sleep (he says she’s killing him slowly through exhaustion).  She also accuses people of stealing jewelry and possessions. When she’s calmer, she laughs with these invisible people and serves them tea.  She’ll have all these cups out filled with tea and is the only one drinking.

In my last visit, she was walking around the house with a butcher knife.  I asked her calmly, “What are you doing with that?” She was very upset, shaking. She said she was going next door to the neighbor to kill a panther that had swallowed the dog. They needed a knife to cut the dog out of the panther’s belly.  She got the idea of the panther implanted in her head because we had just watched a Geico commercial that had a black panther in it.  Somehow…the image stuck and became a permanent memory. But there’s no way I was going to allow her to walk next door and pound on it with a butcher knife in her hand.  The neighbors are terrified of her.

In my book SLIPSTREAM I have a villain who is the product of an all-powerful mind that has gone insane.  He isn’t evil per se. Rather, he’s terrified of his own death. So much so, that he’s dreamt up all of the ways in which someone or something could harm him and (in protecting himself from that harm) has brought the world to the brink of destruction.

His insanity cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be assuaged, and there is no logic to it.

It’s exactly the same kind of thing I encounter when talking with my mother. When she is terrified there is no reasoning with her.  She has no logic to any of her actions.  In my view, she has completely lost her mind.  The difference between her and the villain in my book is that my villain has god-like power. I have read that no villain is truly evil. Well for me that’s definitely true and hope that you find it intriguing enough to warrant a closer look at some point.

Do any of you have personal experiences you would like to share that relate to mental illness?

I have a contest for the release of my book.  I will pick one random person who comments on this post to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a SLIPSTREAM jeweled spider (the same person wins both prizes). The jeweled spider really sparkles in the sunlight. I hope whoever wins it really likes it. Also, please make sure that your email is linked to your signature in some way. And yes, the crystal spiders play an important role in my book.


1)     Mark my book “To Read” on Goodreads.

2)     Comment on this post.

3)     Tweet this post if you have twitter. You don’t have to sign-up for twitter. It’s the “honor” system.

That’s it. I will choose a winner on Saturday, May 19th.  And thank you, Laura, for having me on your fine blog.

Thanks again, Michael. I really appreciate what you shared about your mom. *hugs*

I wish you the best of successes with SLIPSTREAM!

Mental Health Monday–Psychiatry, A History

Writer Colleen Rowan Kosinski asks:

What mental health treatments were there in the 19th century?

Great question! I had to pull out the history books for this one. (Which I happen to enjoy, BTW.)

The history of mental health treatment is not a pretty one. Prior to the mid 1800’s, people with mental illness were either imprisoned (in horrible conditions, you know, like being chained naked to a wall in a dungeon) or kept isolated in the family home…or barn. The idea was to keep them away from Society as a whole because they could be harmful to Society.

From the middle ages on, those with mental illness were also kept in institutions known as Asylums. Conditions were…deplorable at best.

A mental asylum as depicted by Francisco Goya

The first Insane Asylum in the US was in Virginia. Called the Eastern State Hospital, it opened in 1773.  At the time, it was believed no cure for mental illness existed, and so no one was discharged from the institutions, but more and more people were admitted. The end result was overcrowding.

The patients were subjected to the same routine, day in and day out…not too bad, except when treatments such as blood letting, purging, cold water baths, the Tranquilizer Chair, restraints, etc, were used. (Remember, these treatments were considered humane at the time. Oy.)

Bloodletting, Tranquilizer Chair, Restraint

In the early 1800’s, French psychiatrist Phillippe Pinel developed the “Moral Movement” for the treatment of the mentally ill. Moral treatment purported that mental illness was the result of psychosocial stressors such as abuse and trauma, not necessarily from demon possession or some other fantastical reason. As a result, mentally ill individuals were seen as needing protection from Society rather than the other way around.

Phillippe Pinel

Benjamin Rush (the American “father” of psychiatry) and Dorothea Dix (an “advocate” of the mentally ill) made a ton of headway in the treatment of individuals with mental illness by trying to identify what caused it.

Benjamin Rush and Dorothea Dix

In 1841, a new facility called The Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane (later named the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital) was opened. This facility actually had occupational therapy suites, libraries, and swimming pools that allowed patients to engage in recreational activities and educational endeavors. (Nice, right?)

Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane

By the end of the 1800’s, Emil Kraepelin (a German scientist) really defined the idea that mental illness is a biologic and genetic illness. He coined the terms “manic depression” (now called major depression and bipolar disorder) and “dementia praecox” (later called Schizophrenia by Eugene Bleuler). By this time, society began softening toward those with mental illness and a movement toward more humane treatment started. Key word: STARTED.


It wasn’t until the mid-1900’s that psychotropic medications were developed (Thorazine being the first…well, except for Lithium, which was popular in tonics starting in the late 1800’s) and more laws supporting the rights of those with mentally ill were passed. Deinstitutionalization (discharging patients to the community with outpatient care) followed and now we have today’s system of inpatient, outpatient, support services, etc…which is another post entirely. 😉

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday and Sarah’s The Strangest Situation.