Surviving the Scourge of Schizophrenia: A Law Professor's Story - A Review of Elyn Saks' 'The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness'
Hastings Women's Law Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2008
16 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2007 Last revised: 24 Mar 2008
Elyn R. Saks is Associate Dean for Research and Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. in philosophy as class valedictorian at Vanderbilt University; earned a M. Litt. in philosophy from Oxford University; and got her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She has written three books and numerous articles and book chapters on mental health-related issues. She has won major awards for her scholarship. Overall, she has excelled in legal academia. She also has had schizophrenia for most of her life. Her story, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, is a fascinating look at life coping with the most severe mental illness. Her memoir is frightening, gripping, courageous, inspiring, and ultimately triumphant. It has garnered numerous rave reviews; Time magazine ranked it ninth among the ten best nonfiction books of 2007. This reviewer is particularly well suited to assess Professor Saks' saga because he is a successful legal academic who, unbeknownst to his colleagues until recently, has for over twenty-five years had the serious mental illness bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive illness), the worst of the mood disorders which rank just behind thought disorders like schizophrenia in compilations of severe mental illnesses. His review reflects his special insight into Professor Saks' journey through life with a mental disease, including that he gained during five psychiatric hospitalizations and the same stigma concerns that haunted Professor Saks for many years. He concludes her book is a must-read for anyone interested in law faculty or students with psychiatric conditions as it proves one can achieve a great deal in legal academia despite having a severe mental illness.
Keywords: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic-depressive illness, legal education, law and mental disability, mental health law, law professors, legal academics, mental illness, Elyn Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
JEL Classification: K00, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation