Book Review of Tea with the Mad Hatter
Book Reviewer: Samantha Jafar
Author: Erin Campbell and Austin Mardon
“Tea with the Mad Hatter” provides the reader with a unique take on the subject of mental illness. Indeed, we are given a glimpse on the journey that Austin Mardon took on when he got diagnosed with his mental illness which is paranoid schizophrenia. The book dives in further details as to how one gets diagnosed and the effects of the social stigma it may have on them. At first, the author reveals that she first met Austin on an advertisement about book editing. This later on led to writing a book involving a series of interview rounds surrounding Austin’s life.
There were traces of the mental illness in his family. His grandmother experienced symptoms after the birth of her child and was then interned in an institution. Next, was his mother who exhibited the symptoms and was taken care of for a while. During their time period, mental illness was seen as something negative. Austin’s mother was ashamed of the illness and refused to take medication for it. The main difference between him and his mother is that he takes his medication. It is explained that, while it is understandable for individuals to refuse treatment as it would cement the labeling of the disease on them, it is essential for them to take medication as it does help in being able to lead normal life. Austin indeed went through different type of medications, but he is an accomplished man that is unafraid to talk about his mental illness in public. The first time he felt the symptoms appear was when he was at a bar with a friend, and he could see visions and hallucinations. For the next several days, Austin was walking around roads and streets aimlessly until he called his father for help. At the hospital, he was refused admission and the staff dumped responsibility on his father which he couldn’t shoulder. Unfortunately, he had to take the difficult decision of letting Austin go wander around until he came back to the hospital alone where they’d have no choice, but to admit him.
The event itself illustrate a major flaw in the healthcare system. Once he was placed in treatment, Austin had a difficult time accepting that his life was changing due to his diagnosis. He explained that he felt that his life was over and that he mourned that period of his life where he felt normal. Although, this was true to a degree, Austin was able to bounce back slowly and remade a life where his mental illness did not stop him from living normally. Indeed, he became a homeowner, finished a PhD program in geography which was his passion and met the love of his life. Even though he did have to abandon a career in academia, he became a mental health advocate. He joined Unsung Heroes which was an organization that helped mentally ill people. Austin contributed by speaking about his schizophrenia. It takes a lot of courage to speak about it, but it is needed if we want to spread awareness for the general public.