During Pete Earley’s difficult struggle to secure treatment and care for a son diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the author and former Washington Post reporter became interested in the nation’s mental health system and wrote a book about the subject.
In Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, which was one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, Earley tells two stories that are threaded through the book. The first is his family’s personal story, and describes how his son developed mental illness while in college and was arrested during a manic episode. This began a chain of events that was a shocking and emotional journey for the entire family, and provided a revealing window into mental illness in America.
The second story line in Crazy follows Pete Earley as he spends a year investigating the circumstances and treatment of people with mental illness in Miami-Dade County in Florida. Earley reports on how the criminal justice system is flooded with people with mental illness. They are arrested by police with scant training in dealing with mental illness, they burden the court system as it tries to adhere to a legal process ill-suited to the circumstances, and they languish in prison where they receive no treatment. Generally they are released again with no support or prospect of integrating back into society.
Since the publication of Crazy, Earley has traveled across the country advocating the need to reform the mental health system and stop the imprisonment of people with mental illness. In addition to Crazy, he has published ten books, including The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison.