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Book #53: The Locked Ward: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Orderly by Dennis O'Donnell



Number of pages: 352

Author Dennis O'Donnell worked in the "Locked Ward", a psychiatric institution, for seven years. This book tells of how he was invited to work there while he was caring for elderly patients, and of his experiences.

Not surprisingly, O'Donnell has a very good knowledge of mental illness and the different forms it can take, as he talks about various patients he has dealt with, ranging from people with schizophrenia to even nymphomania. Most of the individual chapters talk about different patients, but you can tell there is a linear progression through the book as his time in the ward is charted.

Inevitably, this book is quite harrowing and very gritty in its realistic portrayal of mental illness, and although it felt a bit repetitive (how many accounts of patients taking their clothes off and attempting to have sex with others did the book need?), I found the book to be compelling. Surprisingly, there were some very humourous moments, for example O'Donnell noting that he was so alarmed he might have dashed through the wall leaving a cartoon-like hole that was shaped like him, and there are some occasional depictions of the absurd conversations that he and his colleagues have had. To be honest, I think if you're working in a place like this you need to have a good laugh at times, or you'd go crazy yourself!

Next book: Earthbound by Paul Morley
Tags: autism, autobiography, book review, contemporary, gritty, health, memoir, mental health, misery memoir, non-fiction
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