Sample Book Critique on When Madness Comes Home by Victoria Secunda

The acclaimed author of When Madness Comes Home, Victoria Secunda, has experienced mental illness firsthand. The author’s extraordinary empathy inflects this book as a companion to someone living with schizophrenia. Her painful personal experience has served as the origin of this book, a radical study of the effects of mental illness on the family and other associated persons. In her manuscript, Secunda delves into various aspects of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and substance abuse that bear a burden to the affected and their close family.

In the contemporary world, many families struggle with coping with unusual difficulties, such as having patients who have a mental illness, which most people find stressful to handle. Secunda (1997) reveals marital challenges faced by spouses of mentally ill patients. She further explains the problems that the children and siblings of mentally-ill patients experience as they cope with the condition in the families. The author reveals that understanding the symptoms of this illness and supporting the affected group is critical. Secunda explains that it is important for the patient’s family members to understand the condition and ways of managing it.

When Madness Comes Home is an effectively written and meticulously researched book. Besides, the author’s writing is easy to read and understand. She draws her life example of having grown with a mentally-ill sister, which makes people believe her story. She presents her arguments by reviewing the experiences of those she interviewed. The validity of her work is commendable since she understands that a person with a mental illness requires much attention and care. This book enlightens readers on difficulties that individuals with mentally-ill patients experience and how to overcome them. Tactfully avoiding criticism of medical professionals or parents, Secunda (1997) clarifies that her concerns lie elsewhere. She acknowledges the effort of researchers who studied this subject before her, such as Michael Rutter, Fuller Torrey, Judith Lewis, and Robert Plomin, among others.

Extensive research has been conducted on the causes of mental illness, the people likely to be affected, treatment, and prevention. However, few researchers have explored how the condition has affected family ties. The book, When Madness Comes Home, provides vital information that helps clinicians to address the needs of mentally-ill patients and their family members.

From the clinical view, physiotherapists should not only pay attention to the patient but also assist the family members of the mentally-ill patient in developing coping techniques. The experts should help the affected people to accept their feelings and situation of hopelessness as a result of living with patients with a mental condition. As noted by Secunda (1997), support groups can be established to enable families to understand and meet their patients’ needs.  Secunda (1997) suggests that the feeling of helplessness due to having a family member with a mental condition should be addressed by a physiotherapist to establish a working solution. Notably, failure to educate and encourage individuals caring for mentally-ill patients can result in cases of depression since the task is demanding.

The writer explains the experiences of people living with mentally-ill patients. She tries to encourage the victims to believe in themselves and handle such situations effectively. The author emphasizes that individuals whose loved ones are mentally ill should learn to share their challenges with other persons in a similar situation. This strategy enables such people to remain positive and learn new tactics for managing the condition. The author is determined to equip the readers with information that can help them manage mentally-ill family members as she understands the difficulties involved.

The author’s work has several weaknesses. First, the writer repeatedly blames parents for playing a part in the prevalence of the condition among their children. Secunda relates to David Elkind, a professor of child study at Tufts University, who agrees that parents have a hard time accepting their responsibilities in managing the illness. The scholar also notes that parents do not see the link between their initial behaviors and mental disorders that affect their children. To some extent, the patient’s family also suffers much when they see their loved ones in pain and poor health condition (Secunda, 1997). Secunda’s lack of knowledge of genetics is evident in the book, shown by statements where she claims that faulty genes do not explain much since individuals may have characteristics that modify their expressions, such as charm or intelligence

Through the book When Madness Comes Home, the author advises family members to acknowledge the existence of mental illness and openly discuss it with health practitioners and other individuals with mentally-ill patients. Secunda avers that the greatest source of distress for the offspring and siblings I interviewed was not the presence of mental illness, but that no one talked about and explained about it. She further mentions the importance of a support group, whereby people can discuss freely on mental illness to learn effective ways of managing the disease.



Secunda, V. (1997). When madness comes home: Help and hope for families of the mentally Ill. Hyperion.