The absurdities of life on a psychiatric ward: Compelling, not depressing

W-3: A Memoir by Bette Howland review: A reissued 1970s account of mental distress

 Bette Howland. Photograph: Jacob Howland

Bette Howland. Photograph: Jacob Howland

“I should explain right away that I didn’t belong here,” Bette Howland states early on in her compelling and lucid memoir, before adding: “But that goes without saying, no one belonged here.”

“Here” is W-3, the psychiatric ward in a Chicago teaching hospital, where Howland found herself admitted for treatment after an attempt to take her own life. Her memoir, clear-eyed, with an anthropological, sociological distance, is a brilliant attempt to document life on the ward with clinical detachment. 

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