Disability Studies Quarterly
Fall 2006, Volume 26, No. 4
Copyright 2006 by the Society
for Disability Studies


McLean, Richard. (2005). Recovered, Not Cured: A Journey through Schizophrenia. St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia: Allen & Unwin. 192 pages, ISBN 1865089745, $14.95.

Review by Hannah Anderson, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Richard McLean's first book, Recovered, Not Cured: A Journey through Schizophrenia, is his personal history living with schizophrenia. This is a vivid, honest view of the onset and continuation of the mental illness schizophrenia. His fresh new insight highlights the possibilities of mental illness that are often overlooked by clinical periodicals and many of the older novels that chronicle schizophrenia. This book gives a very realistic depiction of the possibilities that can take place in a nurturing home and community. However, this very personal story overshadows some of the more negative and common occurrences with the disease.

"Richie," his preferred nomen to dispel confusion from the American painter by the same name, hails from suburban Melbourne and is an artist and mental health advocate. He includes many of his own drawings, which illustrate his unwinding thoughts throughout the book. An innovative format in book publishing is also included, which is a series of letters from his website from parents, friends, and patients themselves with questions, comments, and thoughts.

Richie is more fortunate than some patients with schizophrenia; many of them have less understanding families as well as limited resources. He does a good job showing how much stress occurs from the troublesome cycles of understanding and cooperation that accompany the disease. This illustrates just some of the many layers that must be overcome with schizophrenia in an attempt to 'recover' to a functioning level.

The book appropriately starts with the prodromal stage, or the initial stage of the disease. Richie begins hearing voices and feeling like people are following him. He describes very embarrassing moments when hanging out with friends or family, such as explaining to his parents why he took the tires off the family golf cart to make an anti-gravity machine. His parents and friends have been very supportive throughout his illness, which can prevent repercussions such as living in a group home, being hospitalized, or even living on the streets.

While support is strong for Richie, he is also remarkably independent, which is imperative for functional living with mental illness. Another remarkable aspect of Richie is his artistic ability. These two traits help him deal with the disease on two levels: first, being an artist allows him to be more socially eccentric, and second, it gives him an insight into what he is feeling. One of the large problems with schizophrenia is a lack of insight. This impairs people from getting help because there is no realization of a problem.

The book is very socially conscious. The numerous anecdotes clearly illustrate the development of the disease as it progresses into the patient's life. Throughout the text he raises consciousness by carefully placing letters written to his website by other patients and their loved ones. These letters are used to illustrate ideas and emotions that he is going through at that particular time. This allows the reader to understand, from other points of view, the similar experiences that people with schizophrenia go through.

The storyline is broken, yet he paints a very realistic portrait of his life from all aspects. It starts out in a social situation and follows him through several jobs, on a trip to Europe, and even into love. Schizophrenia is a difficult journey to endure with many hurdles to overcome, such as social stigma, monetary strain, unproductive time, and strong medications with severe side effects. Richie takes us through that journey gracefully, all the while acknowledging others' journeys to show how intertwined people really are.