Author traces schizophrenic roots

Patrick Tracey talked to students on Nov. 16 about his experience as a relative of schizophrenics, which he explored in his award-winning book. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Patrick Tracey talked to students on Nov. 16 about his experience as a relative of schizophrenics, which he explored in his award-winning book. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

By Adrienne Slaght
Correspondent

Captured by his sincerity, students flooded the Brower Student Center on Nov. 16 to hear author Patrick Tracey discuss the disorder that is “all about the voices” from his book “Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family’s Schizophrenia.”

Tracey said writing this book was like “treating an open wound,” and refers to the memoir as a “conversation piece for a thing that doesn’t get talked about.”

Schizophrenia has become extremely prevalent in the United States — one in 100 suffer from the mental illness, Tracey said. It has also become uncomfortably familiar to Tracey, as he has watched the disorder take over the lives of several relatives, including an uncle, two sisters, a grandmother and a great-great grandmother.

Tracey read passages from his work to the audience, sharing some of the bizarre experiences he encountered with his sister, Michelle, who suffers from schizophrenia, including one instance when she informed him that “the whole world is getting ready for her marriage to Jesus.”

Rita Khanna, junior biopsychology major, said “I could really relate to Tracey and his stories because I also have a family member who is schizophrenic. After listening to him talk about his sisters’ experiences it gives me hope for my aunt’s future.”

Tracey spoke of his long line of family history dealing with the disease, and offered words of inspiration to students who share a relationship with someone mentally disabled.

“The best thing you can do for a person with a disability is let them know you’re not ashamed of them by their condition but that you’re proud to stand next to them,” Tracey said.

And that is exactly what Tracey has done his entire life.

When asked about the use of prescription drugs for treatment of schizophrenia, Tracey asserted that there is no “magic pill” and said that drugs, for the most part, put patients into a “medicated head fog.”

Tracey advocated change in the field of medicine to the audience, specifically to those who would someday become a psychiatrist.

“You have a chance to make a big, big impact,” he said.

Despite the hardships Tracey’s family has endured, he said, “We’re a family who believes in wishful thinking.”

Tracey’s compelling story has earned him the 2009 PEN New England Award, according to a news release from the 2009 PEN Hemingway Foundation.