Hidden Valley Road

The Galvin family, Air Force photo, 1961.

My heart hurts. I just finished Hidden Valley Road. Then again, my adult son has paranoid schizophrenia. Our ten-year journey toward help has been rocky and torturous. My heart often hurts.  

Award winning journalist Robert Kolker combines an examination of twentieth century mental health treatment and the components of schizophrenia with the narrative of the Galvin family. Between 1945 and 1965, Don and Mimi Galvin had twelve children, ten boys and two girls. By the mid-1970s, six of the brothers had developed schizophrenia.

The Galvin family became one of the first to contribute to the genetic studies of the National Institute of Mental Health, and for their donation to the body of research, I am grateful. I will continue to keep the remaining family in my thoughts. Part of my sadness lies in the continued wait for a scientific breakthrough.

If you have experience with mental health issues, especially schizophrenia, Hidden Valley Road is a must read. If not and you are interested in knowing more, may you find compassion for those who suffer with severe mental illness and their families who are doing the best they can. There must be better help on the horizon.

38 thoughts on “Hidden Valley Road

  1. Thanks for sharing this Crystal. I personally don’t have experience with mental illness but a close friends daughter does and I have had some insight to the struggles of getting diagnosed in the first place and then dealing with it has been a difficult road for my friend and her daughter. I will share this with her.
    Thank you again 💙

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    1. Sarah, I’m so sorry. The ending on this narrative is not that hopeful, but I learned a few things through Kolker’s research. I’m putting my faith in God and science and praying for your family.

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      1. Thank you. Our biggest frustration right now is that my nephew was doing well in a group home situation, but has been utterly locked down by the state in the midst of Covid, unable to come home and unable to receive visits from his family. Not a good situation for those struggling with mental health.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand. It’s a team effort. Our problem is medication efficacy. After five years of a medication that once helped, it no longer works. We tried a new doctor recently in hopes of a new result, and she recommended another hospitalization. My son refused this option. He doesn’t believe he needs help. He’s currently on the street. 💔🙏🏻

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Six children with schizophrenia! What pain that must’ve been for the Galvin family! One of the members of our close-knitted writers’ critique group has an adult son who is schizophrenic. I am helpless in the face of her daily struggles with his behavior that have impacted her life and health over the years. Our group is a lifeline for her and for that I give thanks. It is a lifelong battle. From what you have shared, I know that you have found support among family and dear friends. Blessings, Crystal ❤

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    1. And then I read a review that said, “Worst. Parents. Ever.” And a number of people jumping on that bandwagon. The first diagnosis was in the sixties. People didn’t discuss these types of illnesses, and there was so much misunderstanding.

      Sending up prayers for your friend and her son. I’m happy she has you and your group! I’m happy you have a writing group, too. We all get by with a little help from our friends, of course family, too, but I wanted to quote The Beatles.

      Thanks for reading and supporting, Rosaliene!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the book though I skimmed a lot of the book as the story was just too bleak. I think the subtitle ‘inside the mind an American family’ is misleading. The story is not especially an American story with six sons afflicted with schizophrenia. I am afraid the genetics angle has not proved to be very enlightening as to the etiology of schizophrenia. There is really no side of the book that addresses what can be done. I already knew schizophrenia is associated with disasters. I am interested in ways of addressing schizophrenia that ameliorate the illness which the book gives no clue to. This family was affllicted with afflictions that make Job look lucky. I was sympathetic to all the individuals in the book though certainly not to various actions of the ill sons. Apparently a lot of the sons got terrible treatment while in the mental health system. In sum I think the story is way too atypcial to be very revealing about schizophrenia.

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      2. The mental health system is broken. As you have learned parents have to be the primary care-givers for adult mentally ill children with the mental health system only providing some assistance.

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  3. My heart, thoughts and prayers are with you, Crystal, as you and your family continue strive for the best possible answers in a situation that changes constantly, and too often seems to elude resolution.

    Nonetheless, with each day, the solution draws nearer. When will that be? Unclear at present, but the efforts you and others make hasten its arrival. In the meantime, you’re making things better than they would’ve been otherwise..

    I hesitate at being too sanguine, as your burden far exceeds my own, but your example and determination inspire. If for no reason other than effort alone…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well into the century into which we were born, smallpox still killed millions, yet by the time we came around, the disease had been eradicated. Polio underwent a similar extinction.

    There’s a difference between purely physical illnesses and those with a mental component, of course. Still, tell someone in 1910 that smallpox would be gone shortly, or inform the president in 1945 he’d be one of the last people to endure polio, and both would’ve laughed joylessly. No way. This thing is much too daunting a foe. We’re never going to…

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