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Inspirational Memoir Review    



Surviving Suicide: My Journey to the Light Within
by Mary A. Scovel
Coastal Villages Press, 2003
Trade paper, $17.90 (141 pages)
ISBN: 1-882943-18-X


According to the American Association of Suicidology, someone in the United States commits suicide every 17 minutes, making suicide the eighth leading cause of death. “Psychological autopsy studies reflect that more than 90% of completed suicides had one or more mental disorders.”

Today 2.5 million Americans live with schizophrenia. The brain disorder tends to strikes in the late teenage and early adult years, most commonly between 15 and 25 years of age in men and between 25 and 35 years in women. The symptoms include: hallucinations, delusions or false beliefs, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, apathy and social withdrawal.

Though it has long been known that schizophrenia runs in families, the study of genetics and schizophrenia is ongoing and finding new information all the time. Neuroscientists now believe that the brain disorder begins during the fetal stage when the brain is wired up. From The NIMH Genetic Study of Schizophrenia, “The basic flaw in the brains of many schizophrenics seems to be that certain nerve cells migrate to the wrong areas when the brain is first taking shape, leaving small regions of the brain permanently out of place or miswired. Such errors in neural architecture may have one or more causes, which remain to be discovered. One speculation is that brain misconnections might develop when the mother catches a virus early in pregnancy.”

A major public misconception is that people with schizophrenia are violent. It could not be further from the truth. Those suffering the brain disorder tend to be of above average intelligence, creative and very sensitive to their surroundings. They are more likely to self-inflict violence, then act out violently against the world. They are typically withdrawn and prefer to be left alone.

I may have more knowledge on this topic than the average reviewer, because my younger brother is schizophrenic and has survived five suicide attempts to date. Families dealing with the brain disorder know that it is managed with medicine, but is not cured.

Mary Scovel in her memoir Surviving Suicide, shares the anguish of her sons history with schizophrenia. Her son Steve was 27 when he committed suicide by hanging in 1988.  Carl at age 30 followed in 1993 by using the same method. The book is a celebration of her sons Steve and Carl – and their creative gifts of music and art. (This is also a common trait of those with schizophrenia). Other common reactions to the disorder, are exhibited by the young men. Steve disappears for a time, living as a homeless person.  Carl is gullible and excessively generous to people he believes to be friends, but in reality are users.

As the wife of a Methodist minister, Mary and her husband Ward had the added burden of no comfort from their church family and friends. It is out of ignorance and archaic beliefs in Christianity that many hold to the belief that those who commit suicide go straight to Hell. Their spiritual healing took them to Hawaii and finally Hilton Head, South Carolina. They studied A Course in Miracles and used writing to heal their souls.

Mary Scovel gives her journey through the channels of mental health professionals and the system that is far for perfect. She also provides resources for further study of schizophrenia and suicide.

Scovel has composed a song about her loss and healing spirit, entitled “My Broken Heart.”  More information is available at her web site:

I would also like to add these two sites for those wishing more information on schizophrenia:

STEP Art Gallery at UNC Neuroscience Hospital (promotes the art of schizophrenic clients)

The NIMH Genetic Study of Schizophrenia


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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