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January first : a child's descent into madness and her father's struggle to save her by Michael Schofield

  1. 00
    The Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective on Mental Illness by Liza Long (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Both books are about severe childhood mental illness and its effect on families.
  2. 00
    Memories of Summer by Ruth White (meggyweg)

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Every now and then I picked up a book which so absorbs me I read it almost
without pause. January First was one of these. While it is subtitled A child's
descent into madness and her father's struggle to save her, it is so much more
than that. I first became aware of January (or Jani as she insists on) through
the wonder of daytime television, and when I discovered her father had written a
book I couldn't wait to get it.

From birth, Jani is a challenging child. She never slept for more than 20-30
minutes at a time and then only if her parents, Michael and Susan, spent the day
stimulating her and taking her to places to tire her out. By the time she was
one she was speaking in complete sentences, by the time she is two she is asking
about negative numbers. She has a number of imaginary friends, particularly a
cat called 400 and seven rats named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and they all live on Calalini. Convinced she is a
genius, her parents are finally able to get an IQ test done which shows that it
is 146 - not quite as high as they were expecting but given her age, still
significant. At the same time Jani is showing very different behaviours from
that expected of a toddler, and she is quite antisocial. Her parents put this
down to the disconnect between her chronological age and her mental capabilities
and her father is determined to protect her potential often clashing with his
wife who wants her to socialise in the way that regular pre-schoolers do. It
becomes a cause of friction between them, and in some ways, blinkers Michael's

Only when her brother Bohdi is born and Jani is so violent towards him from the
day they bring him home that neither child can be left on their own, do alarm
bells start to ring and Michael and Susan begin to search for answers. Jani is
assessed by psychologists and psychiatrists, hospitalised, medicated at levels
which would turn an adult to a zombie, yet her behaviour scarcely changes.
Nothing can stop Jani obeying Wednesday's commands to hit Bohdi, and even though
Michael and Susan put themselves in harm's way to protect him, nothing will
distract her until she has carried out what needs to be done.

January First is Michael's story of his daughter's life, the battles he took on,
the mistakes he made, his roller-coaster relationship with Susan as both seek to
give Jani a stable, if not ordinary, life and a safe haven for Bohdi. It is a
story of frustration, despair, hope and faith.

But it is also the story of a society that still sees mental illness as a stigma
rather than accepting a broken brain in the way it accepts a broken leg. It is
a story of a society where there appears to be little support for parents of
mentally ill children so there only respite is when the child is in school in a
situation never designed to cater for such extreme needs or when she is
hospitalised in circumstances that make your draw drop at the lack of empathy
and care. It is a story of a system that is not geared to cater for and manage
mental illness in children. It is a story of a system where health care is
dependent on your ability to pay and the health insurer's willingness to do so,
so that as well as battling the illness, you also have to battle bureaucracy.
It is a story that will break your heart and make you want to fight for the
rights of Jani and others like her.

When I was at teachers college as a young mum, we had to visit a local hospital
where severely physically and mentally disabled children lived and I gave thanks
that my newborn son was so healthy. As a grandparent, I give thanks that my
little people are not Jani. As a teacher, I gained great insight into what it
must be like for parents living with a child with a mental illness. Jani's
story puts things into perspective. There's a saying that there is always
someone worse off than you, but in this case, it would be hard to know what that
would be particularly as it now seems that Bohdi is following Jani's path

I thank Michael Schofield for writing it - there is so much we can learn from
his baring his soul in this way. I hope he and Susan continue to have the
courage and strength and love that shine through this book on every page, and
that the rest of us listen and do what we can to make life better for parents
and children in this situation.

This book is an absolute must-read - just ensure that you give yourself a long,
interrupted time to do so, and give every child in your life a warmer smile
( )
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
I have NO IDEA what to say about this book. I have so many questions after reading it, and not many of them have answers several years later. I can't imagine what's under the surface, because what we can see is so outrageously controversial and hard to believe. Three stars because I could NOT stop reading it. Some books are like that. ( )
  gentlespirit512 | Nov 22, 2016 |
Harrowing, riveting and heartbreaking. This memoir about a father's fight to help is young daughter from descending into schizophrenia was nail-biting. This is an incredibly fast read that I was unable to put down. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
This is a raw, sad, yet inspiring book written by a father who so deeply loves his four year old daughter, he will do anything to help find resources for her bizarre and violent behaviors. Hearing voices of pretend friends, January (Janni) drops in and out of reality.

After a long, arduous journey, and many trips to hospitals and institutions who were at a loss to help, finally Janni was diagnosed with the worst-case early onset schizophrenia case on record.

Highly recommended, primarily because it gives a very telling description of this nasty severe mental illness, and affirms the depths of love of parents who will go to the ends of the earth for the child they love. ( )
  Whisper1 | Jun 22, 2016 |
This is a raw, heart-wrenching story of a family struggling to cope with their young daughter's violent schizophrenia. Narrated by the father, Michael doesn't spare any punches as he takes the reader on an emotional journey as he and his wife battle with the symptoms of Janni's mental illness. With painful honesty Michael talks about his fears, hopes and dreams for his little girl. Having a close relative with schizophrenia I can totally empathise with Michael. My family and I have had to deal with the emotional roller-coaster, hallucinations, violence, endless doctors and hospital visits for many, many years. Although I didn't always agree with the parents' decisions, their unconditional love for Janni is clearly evident on every page. A powerful and fascinating read. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307719081, Hardcover)

Michael Schofield’s daughter January is at the mercy of her imaginary friends, except they aren’t the imaginary friends that most young children have; they are hallucinations. And January is caught in the conflict between our world and their world, a place she calls Calalini.  Some of these hallucinations, like “24 Hours,” are friendly and some, like “400 the Cat” and “Wednesday the Rat,” bite and scratch her until she does what they want.  They often tell her to scream at strangers, jump out of buildings, and attack her baby brother. 
At six years old, January Schofield, “Janni,” to her family, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, one of the worst mental illnesses known to man.  What’s more, schizophrenia is 20 to 30 times more severe in children than in adults and in January’s case, doctors say, she is hallucinating 95 percent of the time that she is awake. Potent psychiatric drugs that would level most adults barely faze her. 

A New York Times bestseller, January First captures Michael and his family's remarkable story in a narrative that forges new territory within books about mental illness. In the beginning, readers see Janni’s incredible early potential: her brilliance, and savant-like ability to learn extremely abstract concepts. Next, they witnesses early warning signs that something is not right, Michael’s attempts to rationalize what’s happening, and his descent alongside his daughter into the abyss of schizophrenia.  Their battle has included a two-year search for answers, countless medications and hospitalizations, allegations of abuse, despair that almost broke their family apart and, finally, victories against the illness and a new faith that they can create a life for Janni filled with moments of happiness. 
A compelling, unsparing and passionate account, January First vividly details Schofield’s commitment to bring his daughter back from the edge of insanity.  It is a father’s soul-baring memoir of the daily struggles and challenges he and his wife face as they do everything they can to help Janni while trying to keep their family together. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:14 -0400)

A brilliant and harrowingly honest memoir, this is the extraordinary story of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity.

(summary from another edition)

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