The narrator tracks a hypothetical week in the life and work of a psychiatrist in a major Canadian hospital through the stories of individual patients, some of whom were willing to be identified by name.   

The book opens with “they are us” and the shocking discovery that a patient whose life has been ruined by mental illness is a medical school classmate.  

Other patients have been followed for many years—a woman with eating disorder, a man with bipolar disease, another with schizophrenia. A new patient with intractable depression finally agrees to electroshock therapy, and the first treatment is described. The painful duty of making an involuntary admission pales in contrast to the devastation of losing a patient to suicide.  

Goldbloom’s personal life, opinions, and worries are woven throughout with frank honesty. His mother’s metastatic brain tumor sparks the associated intimations of his own advancing age and mortality.  His genuine fascination with and appreciation of the effective modalities now available are matched by his frustration over how they are beyond reach of far too many because of the stigma that is still attached to mental illness and the lack of resources and political will to make them available.


Plausible and accessible, the narrative defends and demystifies the practice of adult psychiatry as both challenging and deeply rewarding. One of the admitted purposes of the book is to destigmatize mental illness and encourage resources for care. Incurable chronic problems can be managed and every person deserves hope. The views on psychoanalysis and parenting theories might surprise some readers.  

Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada from 2007 to 2015, Goldbloom has been a tireless advocate for mental health. He is also a gifted musician, talented thespian manqué, and incorrigible comic with dozens of appearances on youtube. Hailing from a long line of medical racconteurs (the autobiographies of his grandfather Alton and father Richard, both pediatricians, are also annotated at this database), Goldbloom finds humour shared with patients can be helpful. See his essay
Funny or Not: Humour in Health Care.

Co-author Pier Bryden is also a psychiatrist (of children and adolescents); however, the relentless use of first-person singular means that her role is obfuscated, generating an element of intriguing fictionalized mystery within this project of demystification. 

Primary Source

Simon and Schuster


Simon and Schuster

Place Published