Elyn R. Saks

In Words

Good Reads


  1. Elyn R. Saks, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness
    • The humanity we all share is more important than the mental illnesses we may not
    • If you are a person with mental illness, the challenge is to find the life that’s right for you. But in truth, isn’t that the challenge for all of us, mentally ill or not? My good fortune is not that I’ve recovered from mental illness. I have not, nor will I ever. My good fortune lies in having found my life.
    • Law is based on a theory of personhood; that is, the concept of someone who can make choices and suffer consequences, and who understands the threat of sanction. The doctrine of informed consent (indeed, most of American political theory) presumes that we are not just subjects to be directed, but rather autonomous beings capable of making independent decisions.
    • I needed to put two critical ideas together: that I could both be mentally ill and lead a rich and satisfying life.
    • That was when I learned that for all my good intentions, I could be simultaneously on the receiving and giving end of the stigma that goes along with mental illness.
    • “Don’t focus on it,” she said. “Don’t define yourself in terms of something which even many highly trained and gifted professionals do not fully understand.”
    • “If you are walking on a path thick with brambles and rocks, a path that abruptly twists and turns, it’s easy to get lost, or tired, or discouraged. You might be tempted to give up entirely. But if a kind and patient person comes along and takes your hand, saying, “I see you’re having a hard time- here, follow me, I’ll help you find your way,” the path becomes manageable, the journey less frightening.
    • Dropping in and out of your own life (for psychotic breaks, or treatment in a hospital) isn’t like getting off a train at one stop and later getting back on at another. Even if you can get back on (and the odds are not in your favor), you’re lonely there. The people you boarded with originally are far, far ahead of you, and now you’re stuck playing catch-up.
    • So the grades I earned were the only objective signal I ever received about how I was doing in the world. The task of setting and achieving academic goals operated as a sort of adhesive; I needed it to hold myself together. Failing (or, at least in this case, failing my own expectations) tore that adhesive off and further splintered my fragile sense of self.
  2. Elyn R. Saks, Refusing Care: Forced Treatment and the Rights of the Mentally Ill
    • “Mental illness” is among the most stigmatized of categories.’ People are ashamed of being mentally ill. They fear disclosing their condition to their friends and confidants-and certainly to their employers.
  3. In General
    • The human brain comprises about 2 percent of a person’s body weight, but it consumes upward of 20 percent of that body’s oxygen intake, and it controls 100 percent of that body’s actions.
    • Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.
    • No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness.
    • There are forces of nature and circumstance that are beyond our control, let alone our understanding, and to insist on victory in the face of this, to accept nothing less is just asking for a soul-pummeling. The simple truth is, not every fight can be won.
    • There’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life.  We who struggle with these disorders can lead full, happy, productive lives if we have the right resources




  1. Occupying my mind with complex problems has been my best and most powerful and most reliable defense against my mental illness.
  2. There are not schizophrenics. There are people with schizophrenia and these people may be your spouse, they may be your child, they may be your neighbor, they may be your friend, they may be your coworker.
  3. My mind has been both my best friend and my worst enemy.
  4. We must stop criminalizing mental illness. It’s a national tragedy and scandal that the L.A. County Jail is the biggest psychiatric facility in the United States.
  5. Even with all that – excellent treatment, wonderful family and friends, supportive work environment – I did not make my illness public until relatively late in life, and that’s because the stigma against mental illness is so powerful that I didn’t feel safe with people knowing. If you hear nothing else today, please hear this: There are not ‘schizophrenics’. There are people with schizophrenia, and these people may be your spouse, they may be your child, they may be your neighbor, they may be your friend, they may be your coworker.
  6. I am a woman with chronic schizophrenia. I have spent hundreds of days in psychiatric hospitals. I could have ended up living most of my life on a back ward, but things turned out quite differently.


  1. Ted Talk
    • A tale of Mental Illness — from the inside
      • Profile
        • “Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly, and compassionately.
      • Videos
        • Ted Global – 2012


Honorable Mention

Aware of Elyn R. Saks’s work through one of our posts being liked by “The Bipolar Gamer“.

The Bipolar Gamer blogs at https://thebipolargamer.wordpress.com/ ( link ).


  1. Humble Gamer

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