UC Berkeley professor wins American Book Fest award for memoir

Stephen P Hinshaw/Courtesy

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When UC Berkeley psychology professor Stephen Hinshaw’s father was 16, he jumped off the roof of his Pasadena home because he thought he could fly. While he survived the fall, he spent the next six months in the wards of a county hospital.

Hinshaw’s memoir about his father’s struggle with mental illness and its impact on his upbringing, titled “Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness,” won the American Book Fest 2018’s award for best autobiography/memoir.

“I had dedicated my life to being trained as a clinical psychologist and doing research and teaching and I felt over the years, that it wasn’t complete unless we were open and honest about our own family’s experience,” Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw said that throughout his life, his father would disappear for months, sometimes years at a time, with no explanation. He later found out that his parents were told by doctors to never mention his father’s mental illness to Hinshaw and his sister, because if they found out, they would be “destroyed.”award_Steve-p-Hinshaw_courtesy
Hinshaw remembers learning the truth about his father’s absences during his freshman year of college while on spring break. According to him, learning about his father’s mental illness encouraged him to begin studying psychology.

Hinshaw said that his mother, whom he describes as the “unsung hero of the family,” did not initially want his family’s story to be public.

“When I was able to convince her that telling the truth was better than keeping silence, she agreed and said her family will never be silent again,” Hinshaw said, “So if my Midwestern mother could change her stance and see the value of disclosing, I think everybody can.”

2018 marked the 15th annual Best Book Awards for the American Book Fest.

According to Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, the organization learned about Hinshaw’s memoir when his representatives submitted it for the Best Book Awards Contest.

“By sharing his story, Professor Hinshaw allows all of us to learn, heal and triumph over adversity in our past and lead the way to a new, grounded present reality,” Keen said in an email.

Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 90 categories, according to an American Book Fest press release. Hinshaw took home an award in the autobiography/memoir category.

Shaikh Ahmad, a sixth year PhD student in Hinshaw’s lab, described Hinshaw’s passion for psychology and teaching undergraduates and graduate students.

“I think that the passion has culminated in this book and what I see is someone who has spent the majority of their life dedicated to helping others and trying to move our understanding forward of these challenging issues like mental health and mental disorders and mental illness,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said that when he worked as graduate student instructor for one of Hinshaw’s psychology courses, he heard numerous students talk about how it was their favorite class at UC Berkeley.

He said that he especially found Hinshaw’s ability to integrate issues related to mental health stigma in the memoir “inspiring.”

“I’ve written tons of research articles, I’ve written 11 other books, but it took the longest to write this one.” Hinshaw said, “One of the key messages is if people can get comfortable talking about it they can help overcome stigma, and get people the treatments they need.”

Contact Ronit Sholkoff at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RonitSholkoff.