Michael Boussina Inclusion Program

Cover of the book showing Hinshaw and his father

Written by Cynthia Brideson

What if Dad never came back? The fear gripped me like the slow, inexorable tightening of a rope , squeezing the air from my lungs. The worst part was that no one ever talked about it.

Hinshaw’s masterful memoir leaves a trail of such foreboding remarks, and yet, the book is indeed inspiring. Through his account of living with his father's struggles with bipolar disorder, Stephen Hinshaw (who, in 2007, wrote the first book in the US about the stigma surrounding mental illness), tells an intricate story of how the lack of openness about mental illness affected himself and each member of his immediate family. Not since Judith Guest’s Ordinary People has a book so intimately shown the damaging effects of silence and repressed emotion. Hinshaw tells the story of his own life, too, recounting his youth in the Midwest filled with school, sports, friends, and perplexing disappearances by his dad for weeks to months at a time. Hinshaw's mom stoically held the family together and shielded the children for the reasons why their father was gone (stays in hospitals for treatment of bipolar disorder). Well before Hinshaw's father revealed the real reasons for his absences. the impact of the secrets were influencing Stephen. Once his dad finally confided the truth to his son, over the course of years, Hinshaw shares how the truth — a shock, yet a relief — influenced his own life and career.

This book is both a family story and a psychological study and can be appreciated by those who love a good story as well as academics. Above all, the book allows readers to discover that mental illness does not mean the end of a fulfilling life. It is just a part of a fulfilling one that can be ever more fulfilling with the erasure of, in Professor Elyn Saks’s words, “the pervasive stigma that still clings to mental illness."

Stephen Hinshaw is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the Vice-Chair of Psychology at UC San Francisco.

Stephen Hinshaw

Those coping with physical and developmental disabilities face the same devastating stigma as those with mental illness.

 End Stigma today!