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Father Moves Past A Once-Unforgiving Diagnosis

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Father Moves Past A Once-Unforgiving Diagnosis

Father Moves Past A Once-Unforgiving Diagnosis

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Time now for StoryCorps. Today a look back on the way mental illness was once treated in this country. It comes from John Brock, who spoke with his daughter Glenny. In 1965, when he was 22, John's behavior started to worry his family. He was brought to Bryce Hospital, Alabama's oldest and largest psychiatric facility, where he was treated for schizophrenia.

Mr. JOHN BROCK: At the time there was a lack for other resources for what a family could do when they had a family member who was not well. Having no other choice, my parents had me committed. I was put into a small room, locked, bars on the door. The doctor told my parents that I was hopelessly insane, that I would never leave Bryce, that they should visit me less. At home they should speak of me less, and at a point they should move on with their lives and leave me behind.

Ms. GLENNY BROCK: Do you remember anything that happened to you in the hospital?

Mr. BROCK: Yes. I began to be given a shock treatments. My older sister, Kay, visited and I spoke with great feeling about it and asked that she have them stop. Kay said that she would. And as the day went on, I spoke with the doctor. I said, Doctor, I'm not supposed to get a shock treatment today. Permission had been removed by my family. He looked at me and he said, Get up on the table. And I do remember a slam of the electricity through my head.

Some years after I looked at my psychiatric records, and Kay had removed family permission for them to give me shock treatments.

Ms. BROCK: How did you get out?

Mr. BROCK: In a word, I lied. I started studying television programs. I would just watch people, listen to how they interacted. I knew that to the degree that someone seemed normal, the doctors, the nurses, they were more interested in thinking of that person as someone who could leave Bryce Hospital.

Ms. BROCK: Watching how you have lived your life makes me think that it is possible to fight through things and to live. I think it sort of made me brave. Thank you, Dad.

Mr. BROCK: Thank you, Glenny.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: John Brock with his daughter Glenny in Birmingham, Alabama. John went on to get a Master's degree in public administration. Today he helps patients of Bryce Hospital readjust to life on the outside. All StoryCorps interviews are archived at the Library of Congress. And the podcast is at npr.org.

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