Book review

Madness Made Me

Mary O'Hagan

In a few words

Given that the subject of mental health is never far from our news, an actual New Zealand story of someone’s lived experience of mental illness is not to be missed. And it’s not just anyone telling their story…it is a previous Commissioner of Mental Health and international mental health consultant. 

This book offers readers the chance to hear what it is like to have your life disrupted and shaped by mental illness and then suggests how New Zealand’s mental health system could better provide for the people who need its care.

Great for

Readers who enjoy nonfiction, including biography, and are prepared to keep an open mind while the elephant in the room is being given an airing. It is a winning combination — the story of someone’s life, its wider context and intelligent forward thinking.

Why I love this book

Apart from appreciating the satisfying alliteration of the title, I found the boldness of its claim intriguing. How on earth could ‘madness make you’? Mary O’Hagan just tells it how it is…and through this candour you are privy to what it is like to have your life follow a different path from those around you. The fact that Mary is then able to reflect on her experiences and those of her fellow travellers through the mental health system, and present an alternative care model makes it a compelling story. It really does achieve the promise on the cover, ‘This book will change the way you think about mental illness and New Zealand’s mental health system’.

My one criticism would be

Not really a criticism, but an observation…this book was published in 2015 and documents how the mental health system has been. The question that immediately springs to mind is – with all the money and attention now directed to mental health, has anything changed, and does it incorporate any the of author’s suggestions?

Annie Boardman

Blurb Writer

A member of four book groups, Annie is happy to read anything and everything that comes her way, but she especially enjoys books that enlarge her world view.

View more reviews