72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell is more than a book; more than a story of a woman and her daughter who is suffering from bi-polar disorder. It is a study on the mental health system in California (and by-and-large, the United States), specifically the required 72-hour hold imposed upon an individual who is exhibiting unsafe traits (violence, self-harm) while under mental duress. Trina, the 18 year-old daughter of upscale boutique owner Keri, has been medication-compliant for a few months, but one bout with marijuana undoes her and she is back in a psychotic, manic state. Keri fights the mental health facility, trying to get her hold extended beyond three days, long enough for the medication to calm Trina. Keri’s struggles with the system lead her and a friend (whose daughter has borderline personality disorder) to Brad, the gatekeeper to an illegal institution that uses intense therapies to rehabilitate those with mental disorders.The road they travel from there is adventurous, trying, and terrifying.
This book portrays the black experience with mental health in a way that really struck me. I have dealt with mental health in my personal life, and my experience is nothing like Keri and Trina’s. Acquiring therapy, medication, and support was never a question for the people I have known dealing with mental disease. But Keri was terrified that a policeman would perceive Trina’s manic behavior as combative and dangerous and shoot before thinking…something she claimed didn’t happen to manic white kids. Keri was worried that asking Brown University for another deferment would cause them to ask too many questions, and drop Trina from their enrollment.
The sub-plots contained within the 10 audio CDs (or 336 pages…whichever suits you) are many, and fascinating. Mental health standards in America, the black experience with the mental health system, mentally ill prisoners, support groups, drug abuse, moremoremore. This book had me hooked immediately. I yearned for Trina’s safety just as I yearned for Keri to let her dreams for her daughter go and instead just pray that she lived. I have already recommended this book to a coworker who organizes for the library a series of lectures and workshops on mental health topics. I believe this would be an important read for anyone dealing with their own mental disease. If they are medication-compliant, perhaps reading this book could help them understand the way their family and friends feel when they are non-compliant.