"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Oct 21, 2011

Read Something! PSYCHIATRIC TALES (Darryl Cunningham)

Psychiatric Tales
Graphic Novel, Nonfiction, Essays


Based on his work as a psychiatric nurse, Cunningham wrote the eleven graphic (as in "told in pictures", not as in "explicit") essays collected in this book. The essays discuss specific mental illnesses, work on a psychiatric ward, suicide, and the author's own mental-health struggles, with an aim toward fostering understanding of and destigmatizing mental illness.

Appeal Characteristics
  • Pacing: Very short "chapters" -- each one is probably readable in 20 minutes, maximum
  • Pacing: The text generally consists of declarative/factual statements or quick dialogue; sentences are short
  • Characterization: The reader often just gets quick anecdotes about people and is not really told their broader story or what happened to them. (The exception to this is Cunningham himself, who opens up about his mental health in one of the essays.)
  • Frame: The stories are pretty much self-contained; there is little continuity other than that they usually have the same setting and narrator
  • Visuals: 6 panels per page, with the text usually at the top of each panel
  • Visuals: Dramatic use of black and white: often white figures on a black background, or showing the same or similar images twice with black and white reversed
  • The book touches on suicide and on the author's own struggles with anxiety and depression, so it may be triggering for some people.
  • Girl, Interrupted? (I have only ever seen the movie, and that quite some time ago.) -- similar subject matter and setting, both from the perspective of a person who has been within a mental institution (though one as a patient, one as a nurse)
  • Broadly, I'd recommend this to psychology students, especially those with an interest in abnormal psychology.

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