> Skip to content
  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781407021270
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

Voluntary Madness

My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin

Bestselling ‘immersion’ journalist Norah Vincent takes on the mental health system – but when she gets sectioned she discovers that she’s not just there to report, she’s there to be cured

In Norah Vincent’s acclaimed first book she described how she spent eighteen months disguised as a man, an experience that ended on a locked ward in a psychiatric hospital. She left determined to learn more about the world of psychiatry and to examine whether different mental institutions would offer different solutions to their patients, but rather than researching it as a journalist she chose to experience it as a patient.Her journey begins in a huge inner-city hospital, before moving to the calming green carpet of St Lukes where patients are offered a room of their own and a regular jog in the park. From there she moves to Mobius, and a Buddhist-inspired brand of healing where she is forced to swim through West Coast psychobabble to some unexpected conclusions. The result is a fearless and unprecedented view of mental health care – from the inside out.

  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781407021270
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 304

About the author

Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent's first book, Self-made Man (2006) was an international media sensation and a New York Times bestseller. Previously, Vincent wrote a nationally syndicated op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, New Republic, Village Voice, andthe Washington Post. She lives in New York City.

Praise for Voluntary Madness

A worthwhile and surprisingly easy read for anyone interested in mental illness... Few journalists now leave their desks in search of a story. Vincent reminds us that there is a (locked, secret) world beyond our office windows and internet search engines

Financial Times

The writing is tight, funny and butch, a jabbering world of "docs" and "meds", and full of brilliant observations - the patients who lean towards the therapist, for example, in an attempt to get high on a whiff of her marker pen. There are some interesting personal revelations, too. [...] a fascinating journey. A sex change and now madness - one can't help wondering what she will do next

Sunday Times

The originality of Voluntary Madness lies in the fact that Vincent is reporting from inside the system at its three cardinal levels: a hard-core public institution, a more congenial private equivalent, and an intensively personalised therapeutic realm. As near as is possible in a single account, this presents the full spectrum of psychiatry in operation

Blake Morrison, Guardian

Vincent's a skilled, witty and honest observer, particularly of her fellow patients

The List

Her account veers sharply into a dissection of her own mental health problems but she asks pertinent questions about whether locking people up really helps


Top marks to Vincent for having the guts to pull off her scheme

Colin Waters, Sunday Herald

The writing is tight and funny ... and full of brilliant observations

Camilla Long, Sunday Times

Her immersive approach to her subject matter allows a lot of insight that wouldn't be possible with a more traditional, objective style of journalism and this is what makes her book work...Voluntary Madness is a very personal account of what it's like to be committed... it's worth a read


A brave and compelling book

Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

Related titles