Book Review: Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Forde



Audible link:
very fascinating slightly disturbing, but true to life journey of a teen boy discovering his sexuality and the roots of his depression.
Fifteen year old Jeff wakes up from his suicide attempt feeling like he’d been peacefully floating through space and now has crash landed on Earth once again. He is greeted by Dr. Katzrupus (who he right away calls Cat poop) who tells him that he’s in the psychiatric unit. If this weren’t bad enough he then learns that his parents signed him up to stay for forty five days to help figure out what caused this crisis.
On the unit there are five patients at a time a mix of males and females. He does schoolwork while there. There was one mention of arts and crafts but the daily schedule seems to be eating, watching tv, family therapy once a week, a group daily.
Jeff is an extremely scarcastic dude with a very warped sense of humor. For one his pet name Cat Poop. I kinda can have that side to me too, and have called professionals I don’t like my own private names but nothing to do with poop. And maybe it’s because I love cats but I just can’t deal with that. So I’m calling him Dr. Katz.As a side note by the end of the book he does correct himself and uses the Dr.s full name which shows he finally respects him.
So for the first couple weeks respecting anyone is not on his agenda. He just keeps quiet makes funny, in a crazy sort of way, observations about the other patients and staff. Because of course there really isn’t anything funny about a psych unit, but there kinda is (I’ve been to three) you have to just read it. But I laughed out loud many times.
So as you can guess Dr. Katz is on to him constantly about why he’s here. And he gives him a hard time with his jokes and not taking anything serious and making up crap. After a while Dr. Katz gets his number and just ignores the silliness. Which hey as long as Jeff can get out of sessions early all the better. He said he’d rather do school work than talk.
There was one girl Sadie who he connected with. She tried to drown herself. She seemed ok enough to him though. Outgoing and funny kind of like him joked around a lot. They would play this game where they’d watch tv with the sound off (and apparently closed caption as well) and pretend to be the characters in the movie and based on their actions make up dialogue. This was funny too.

Things don’t really get hard for Jeff until Rankens comes in. He’s a self described jock. He claims he was brought to this program so his parents could figure out why he didn’t want to play football anymore. Jeff thinks this is a weird thing to do although he admits he must look weird too with his scars and still not having opened up.
The real action of the book happens while Rankin is at the unit. It was to do with sexual things taking place between him and Jeff and once between Jeff and Sadie. Things that I believe would not happen at any psych unit I went to or that I know of. They might start to happen but not to the point they got in this book. I’m hoping I’m right. I’m hoping one doesn’t go to a psych unit only to then have sexual things venvolve them.
There’s another terrible thing. Which aggain I really hope even more does not happen at any psych units hospitals or anywhere at least not often at all! You’ll have to read to find out but it’s really bad. All these events, which are pritty traumatic force Jeff to open up. So it’s only at about the last week of the forty five day program that he actually shows his feelings. And uses therapy to discuss what’s brought him here. Relationships back home and his sense of his sexuality. This part of the book I feel was handled very well. And I like that he’ll be seeing Dr. Katz as an outtpatient because I highly doubt any other therapist would have the shere patience to not explode in frustration given what comes out of Jeff’s mouth. I think Jonathan my therapist should have him as a client it would be fun to read about that!
I thought it was interesting reading about a guy’s point of view on being in a psych unit because for whatever reason all the other books I’ve read about this topic it’s been a female point of view. Those who have actually first hand experience will notice details that are off. Like how does insurance automatically pay for a forty five day program right after admission? And for an in depth program you would think there would be way more groups and types of therapy and therapists. Which might have helped Jeff if they had another one who really called him on his shit or who was so horible to talk to for whatever reason, that they made Dr. Katz seem awesome.
And then there are the disturbing incidents on the unit. There was talk of one of the security guards having to watch over two separate units. Which I don’t think would happen anywhere I know of. The point being that when this guy was on the other unit there was no one else on Jeff’s unit but the nurse who usually just sat there at her desk.
Yes sadly these things that happened likely have and do happen. But they’re rare! Someone who has no idea of what being in a psych unit is like will be totally terrified to read this book! Because it confirms fears, at least that I had about being hospitalized before I was. About being hurt by other patients. So that I feel is a huge mistake on the author’s part to set up Jeff’s opening up like that. The author could have done the same thing without bringing in patient on patient sex. Or for that matter a patient death. Oh! sorry gave it away!
So it’s a good read in a lot of ways. I do think some of the content is triggering. And I can’t get over as I said the author’s choice of what happened on the unit. I guess it brings up a thought i always have that the author needs to totally research what they’re writing about. I love books about people being in therapy or hospitals or treatment. Because it’s so little known. People know these things exist. But there are all kinds of myths about therapy and psych hospitals that are just not true. Other books I’ve reviewed have done well to show both the positive and negative aspects of any treatment/ therapy, because that’s life. While showing that it’s not overdramatic like the movies or that you’re a prisoner or something. Showing the good and the bad but accurately.
I think we need to advocate to young adult authors on this. Or as scary is it seems perhaps we, those who have come through treatment and have gained perswpective could write a fictional account in our own book/ work with a very sensitive and compassionate author for that and other information to be gatherred. If I could talk to a young adult author I’d be glad to have them use my experiences for a book. But that’s me Sammy the oversharer. I tell my story to anyone who asks even on paratransit LOL!
Am looking forward to others thoughts on this book and on advocateing around young adult authors geting correct information.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Forde

  1. hi Sam. Haven’t read the book, and I have no experience of inpatient units for younger people, but I can tell you a lot of nasty shit goes on in adult inpatient units, especially in public hospitals, and a vast amount of time is spent sitting around doing nothing. Sorry to be depressing.

    • Oh I can believe it! Especially the state ones what few are open. I know a bit about the adult ones as I’ve been on three different units. Only one I liked. The other two I was on twice, each, and it was a lot of sitting around. No abuse or worse thankfully.

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