3 out of 4 stars
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“This is my story about Ron’s story,” stated the author, Rose Linderman, as an overall prologue description of her book, Grains of Truth: Grains of Deceit. This true story of a wealthy businessman, Ronald Lee Steen, highlights the complexity of treatment for mental illness and its consequences — as well as how a person seeking help can become a victim of the psychiatric care system. Ron shot and killed his girlfriend, Margaret, one night in 1986. Following the killing, he was sent to the Minnesota State Hospital for 20 years.
With nearly thirty years of experience in civil and criminal psychological evaluations, the author brings to the surface the intricacies of Ron’s case. The story is based on legal and medical documents, Ron’s personal records, letters, and interviews with the medical staff and his family.
Born in Morris, Minnesota on July 1, 1940, Ron was the only child in his family. In the 1960s, he began selling grain dryers, which grew into a prosperous multimillion-dollar business. Though Ron was a skilled and energetic salesman with a strong, down-to-earth business acumen, he had begun to exhibit signs of an inherited mood disorder due to unexpected challenges with his company. The mood instabilities, coupled with work stress, took a toll on his relationship. Anxiety and depression took hold as the legal battles with his business competitors began impacting his already tenuous mental health.
Ron met Margaret through mutual friends who shared similar interests. They were a relatively happy couple until one night when they were coming home from a friend’s house. Ron snapped and shot his girlfriend three times. At the time, he was taking four different psychiatric medications prescribed by his doctor. After shooting Margaret, Ron immediately went to the police, turning himself in and asking for help. This was the beginning of almost twenty years of being labeled as both mentally ill and dangerous. He was sent to the Minnesota State Hospital for confinement and treatment.
At the hospital, he was asked to attend weekly programs, which after awhile he refused, stating they were of no use to him. The staff at the hospital did not quite like him because of his straightforward and somewhat domineering nature. When he refused to attend weekly programs, he was unjustly labeled as having a narcissist personality disorder; this was an extreme notion. When the author was asked to review Ron’s case, she then discovered the sometimes unsettling secrets of state hospitals and the behavior of staff towards the patients.
Rose Linderman, a professional forensic psychologist, explores Ron’s twenty years of struggles in order to evaluate him and determine whether he could be safely released back into the community. In her work, she fights against outdated treatment modalities and mental health stereotypes that can perpetuate mental illness. The author aims to improve a system that condemns psychiatric patients, such as Ron, to drug treatment for unlimited periods of time with no goal of completely curing patients prior to discharging them. Also, the book’s message serves as an indictment on the moral behavior of some psychiatrists who abuse patients’ rights.
The only setback I found was the lack of references throughout the book regarding Ron’s personal documents, reports, records, and medical files. Otherwise, this non-fiction story is more like a psychological tale that offers the reader an opportunity to reflect on a broken system of psychiatric institutionalization. Altogether, there are no violent scenes or profane language though individuals sensitive to descriptions of murder might want to stay away.
This book would make a great read for current and future generations of psychologists and psychiatric professionals. Also, those receiving psychiatric medication treatment may grasp a few educational tips from Ron’s life journey. The editing seemed to be professional, but a second look could eliminate the occasional punctuation errors. Therefore, I rate Grains of Truth: Grains of Deceit, by Rose Linderman, with three out of four stars.
Grains of Truth: Grains of Deceit
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