New book tells story of 6 brothers with schizophrenia

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Your host Gabe Howard and calling into our show today we have Robert. Caulker Robert is the author of Hidden Valley Road which was an instant number one New York Times Bestseller and Oprah's Book Club Selection He is a national magazine awards finalist who's journalism has appeared in wired and the new. York Times. Magazine. Bob Welcome to the show. Hi Gabe I'm really glad to talk to you today. Your book is non-fiction. It's a true story. I'm GonNa read from Amazon Right now description the heart rendering story of a mid century American family with twelve children. Six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia became sciences greatest hope in the quest to understand the disease. Let's talk first about how you did the research for this book, you met the Galvin family. That's right. My career really took shape at New York magazine where I've written dozens of cover stories and feature stories about everyday people going through extraordinary situations and I really am drawn to these stories of people who manage crises come through difficulties I find it inspiring and I'm always looking for a deeper issue running at the bottom of her in. So when I met the Galvin family I was amazed, this is a family that's been through so much. Misfortune and also so many challenges and so much scientific mystery medical mystery I I met the two sisters they're the youngest in the family there were twelve children they're the only girls and they now are in their fifties. But when they were children, six of their ten brothers had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The family immediately became interesting to scientists and researchers were trying to get to the the genetic roots of the disease. But before that happened, there was tremendous amount of denial, a lot of stigma that forced the family into the shadows, and so it became clear that by telling their story, maybe we could inspire the general public to sort of remove some of that stigma from mental illness particularly acute mental illness like schizophrenia, which so many people still have difficulty talking about and to anchor this in time they were diagnosed in the seventies. I'm horribly bad at math, but they were diagnosed fifty years ago. So there was even more stigma more discrimination less understanding. It was harder to get diagnosed absolutely and also more of a reason to hide because so many people in the establishment were blaming the families themselves for the mental illness blaming bad parenting in particular, blaming bad mothering, and then of course, the medical treatments, the pharmaceutical treatments were blunter and more extreme back then and they were just coming out of the period of lobotomies in shock therapy insulin coma therapy is all sorts of drastic treatments which are now. So questionable now the parents are dotted Mimi, Galvin their mom and dad did mom and. Dad Have Schizophrenia or any mental illness or was it just their children dated not have schizophrenia neither did anyone in their immediate families and I think part of the mystery of this book is how does schizophrenia get inherited because we now are certain that there is a genetic component to schizophrenia, but we don't know exactly how it is inherited. It's not parent to child it's not recessive. It's not like you need to people with schizophrenia to produce a child schizophrenia it Kinda wanders it meanders through families in a very tricky way and there was a lot of hope pinned on this family that they would help shed a little light on that mystery as well. What were some of the most surprising things that you learned about mental illness and will really schizophrenia from your time interviewing the Galvin's I was surprised by almost everything. But my biggest surprises were that to my understanding of mental illness was that it was about brain chemistry and that great pharmaceutical drugs were coming online that through trial and error and a lot of work. Perhaps, we'll be able to correct your brain chemistry problem and then whatever you had whether it was anxiety or depression. Or bipolar disorder that it would be corrected and that you would become essentially cured although cured is the wrong kind of word for like remission or recovery. Right what I learned was that schizophrenia this isn't really true at all that the drugs that they have the antipsychotic drugs that are very popular that are prescribed so much for schizophrenia, they are basically the same drugs that have been prescribed for fifty years. They may have different names derived from the same classifications of typical neuroleptics or. Narrow left ix and that these drugs are essentially symptoms suppressors. Help a person control their hallucinations or delusions or it might make a patient less erotic and more manageable as a patient in a healthcare setting but it doesn't turn back the clock. It doesn't necessarily add functionality. They really are just sort of good enough in terms of controlling the population but not really the miracles that we look at when we talk about antidepressants for instance, and that was a huge surprise it sounds like that. You didn't know a lot about schizophrenia before you started working on this book. Is that true? That's right. I mean I knew enough to know that it didn't mean split personality multiple. Personality which is. Like the big misnomer that because of the way we use the words get. So there's a Latin root skits which refers to split, but really it was meant to mean a split between reality and one's perception of reality a person with schizophrenia tends to wall themselves off from what is commonly accepted as reality I a little bit and then a lot and sometimes that means delusion. Sometimes that means to lose the nations and sometimes it means being catatonic sometimes, it means being paranoid and in fact, that was the other huge surprise for me for schizophrenia, which was that it isn't really a disease at all it is a classification. Syndrome. It's a collection of symptoms that we have given a name. And I don't mean to sound too nebulous or mystical and talking about There is such a thing as schizophrenia. It's just that it may be several different things in that forty years from now, we might have removed the word schizophrenia from our lexicon and we might have decided that it's really six different brain disorders with sixty screen types of symptoms, and we have found ways to treat those six different conditions differently that was another huge surprise to me. When doing your research for the book? Obviously, you spoke to the family. Did you also speak with medical doctors and schizophrenia researchers and people in the medical field? Yes. Absolutely. My initial conversations were with the family themselves who after many years of difficulty were ready to come forward and talk about everything that happened to their family in a very deep and profound way. But of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking well, how specialists this family for all I know there might be thousand families with lots of kids where half of them have schizophrenia this, this might happen all the time. So I didn't immediate round of checking talking. To major figures in scholarship of schizophrenia in the history of science, but also the treatment of schizophrenia and just to say, have you heard of this family? What would you say if I told you a family late this existed how typical do you think it is? Do you know the doctors who have treated the? Stanley because I knew their names as well are those doctors on the level? Are they quacks and everything really checked out? This is a family that is definitely unusual extraordinarily. So in terms of the numbers, they were important family to study for their time and they did help move the ball forward in a genuinely valid way an. Way So. There's a lot of hope in this story as well. Are there many families that have that many children with half of them being diagnosed with really any severe and persistent mental illness or or even just. This is a a big question that I pursue in the book itself because Linda Lee, one of the researchers who studied this family was actually a collector of genetic material of what she called multi plex families, which is families with more than one perhaps many instances six mental illness, not just among siblings but maybe parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents she made it her job in the nineteen eighties. Nineties was to collect data on as many. Multiplex families as possible. So they're out there but even in that World Galvin families extreme it's it's hard for anyone to think of any other family with twelve children where six of them had this diagnosis

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