Published Fall 2023
Doctor Kay Redfield Jamison, a clinical psychologist, chaired professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, honorary professor of English at the University of St. Andrews, author of now seven books for the general reader on psychiatric subjects, co-author of the standard textbook on manic depression, and MacArthur award recipient, is the most important writer we have on severe mental illness. For the past thirty years she has charted the vagaries of sick minds and agonized souls, with her focus on manic-depressive illness — still her preferred name for what is now called “bipolar disorder.” Though the older term has fallen out of fashion, she finds it both more precise and more evocative than the one currently favored, which could apply to a car battery on the fritz or a geopolitical kerfuffle between rival superpowers. The more anodyne term for this frightful disease is believed to spare sufferers and their families the stigma of the depressed maniac. Sometimes, however, it is useful to give the frightful its full measure of respect by acknowledging openly how terrifying it can be.
Algis Valiunas is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor to The New Atlantis, a journal about the ethical, political, and social implications of modern science technology.