One Family's Struggle With Mental Illness

In his memoir Acquainted With the Night, Paul Raeburn courageously and honestly recounts trying to help his two emotionally disturbed children get well.

"I had never imagined that raising children could become a life-and-death struggle, but now I found myself fighting to keep Alex alive," writes Paul Raeburn, a former writer and editor at Business Week, in his gripping new memoir Acquainted with the Night.

Raeburn's story begins seven years ago, when his son, Alex, is admitted to a psychiatric hospital after leaving his fifth-grade classroom in a rage. After three years of repeat hospital visits and trips to psychiatrists, Alex is diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Then we learn that Raeburn's younger daughter Alicia, 12, is having suicidal thoughts and beginning to mutilate herself. She is diagnosed as depressed.

Thanks to Raeburn's honest, simple prose, the book is much more than an excellent read. By revealing the fault lines that are splitting his family into bits (he and his wife also divorce), Raeburn makes it okay to talk about kids who are mentally ill. And that's important because as he notes, "there is no manual for taking care of a child with a psychiatric ailment, no course at the local community college, no parenting expert on hand to offer advice." This book will undoubtedly get people talking -- both parents and experts -- about mental illness. And for the millions of American children who suffer from serious emotional disturbances, it's not a moment too soon.

Want to know more about bipolar disorder? Check out The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child By Judith Lederman and Candida Fink, M.D. Written for moms and dads, this practical guide addresses the wide range of personal, medical, and legal issues that arise when parenting a child with bipolar disorder. It also offers readers the unique perspective of both a mother of a bipolar child (Lederman) and a psychiatrist (Fink).

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