Pat Capponi



Penguin Canada / Spring 2003


In 1992, with the publication of her acclaimed memoir, Upstairs in the Crazy House, Pat Capponi emerged as the voice for the impoverished mentally ill. The ‘crazy house’ is a place they send people who are discharged from psychiatric wards and have nowhere to go. If anyone leaves, it is usually to the street or the grave. Pat was sent there, but she alone left for a small room of her own.

In this book, she is an explorer into the roots of madness. Surprisingly often, the causes are social. Horrendous, inexplicable family abuse is one route to a psychotic break. When the affliction is physiological, social isolation and incorrect medications intensify problems. Self-medication or addictions lead to crisis. Depression so dark that it prompts self-cutting, is a bewildering and anguished expression of unfathomable pain.

And yet there is hope. Pat uses her own story and the stories of other brave souls who challenge themselves and the system to improve their own lives.