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Book details
  • SubGenre:Social Scientists & Psychologists
  • Language:English
  • Pages:188
  • eBook ISBN:9781631920936

Partial Sanity

Stories from the Edge of Mental Health

by Beth A. McLaughlin

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Partial Sanity: Stories from the Edge of Mental Health is a memoir about jumping feet-first into adulthood. Fresh from her undergraduate degree, twenty-one year old Beth works as a psychiatric case manager in a rural mental health program. This unique group of people teaches her that sometimes the only remedy for anguish is compassion.
Partial Sanity: Stories from the Edge of Mental Health is a memoir about jumping feet-first into adulthood. Armed with a newly earned undergraduate degree in human services, Beth accepts the first full-time position she is offered to work as a psychiatric case manager in a community mental health program. Located in the economically depressed coal region of Pennsylvania in the late 1980's, the town of Houtzdale has an equal number of small bars, dingy Polish halls, and huge Catholic churches to provide different kinds of solace. Instead of deeply insightful therapy sessions with self-actualized people, she finds that her role is really more about helping clients manage the basic dirty details of life. Elbow deep in hamburger while assisting the clients in cooking lunch, Beth questions her choice and wishes she had spent more time in her job search. She grapples with Larry, a client who is more interested in acquiring her Samsonite briefcase than in speaking with her. She wins her briefcase back but loses the chance to connect with Larry. Soon after, she is asked to help Bertha, a woman with chronic schizophrenia, obtain new eyeglasses through the local Lions' Club charity. Beth has to abandon this seemingly simple task when Bertha doesn't know her address or phone number. Beth vows to work harder to understand how she is supposed to help people who seem completely unable to help themselves. How is she supposed to keep people living in the community when many seem only able to function inside a hospital? For the next five years, Beth works to be effective in her role. The days go by in a blur and slowly she becomes more familiar with her job and the clients. The clients' odd and irrational behaviors become more routine to her. Her job responsibilities increase and she takes them bowling and shopping without losing anyone. She learns to facilitate different kinds of psycho-educational groups, maintaining people's attention through topics like current events, personal budgeting, and stress management. She obtains new glasses for Bertha. She connects with Larry through country music. She begins to feel like she is making a small difference in others' lives. Beth's confidence is shaken one day during a dangerous and violent situation. Although she has grown fond of many of the clients and has become good friends with her boss, she decides to pursue other job opportunities. In the meantime, she returns to school to pursue an advanced degree in adult education. Beth learns many lessons during her time in the program. She experiences the devastating toll mental illness takes on those who have it and on those who care for them. She understands that relationships are forged in compassion and kindness. Humor is sometimes the best deflector of tension. Everyone, no matter their station in life, struggle with their own demons. This was the best and worst job of her life.
About the author
Beth A. McLaughlin lives with her husband in Pennsylvania. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Goddard College. In 2006 she was honored with the Hidden River Arts Residency Award. This is her first memoir.