Sons of Madness
Growing Up and Older with a Mentally Ill Parent
by Susan L. Nathiel
August 2013, 179pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-0428-1
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-0429-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.
In this book, an experienced psychotherapist taps in-depth interviews to document how boys who grew up with psychotic, bipolar, depressed, or mentally ill parents coped with the stresses and became the men they are today.

What is it like for a boy to grow up with a mentally ill mother or father? In this book, Susan Nathiel, PhD, LMFT, shares her in-depth interviews with a dozen men who reflect on their experience—from childhood to the present—growing up with a mother or father suffering from some form of mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. These candid accounts detail each man’s unique personal narrative, yet some common themes emerge.

Inspired by her own childhood experience growing up alongside her brothers with a mentally ill parent, Nathiel knows the right questions to ask: how did these boys deal with shame and stigma? How did they cope with the expectations that boys and men are not emotional and don’t need to talk about frightening, confusing experiences? How have they managed close relationships as adults? What has been the legacy of family mental illness for each one of these men? This is one of the only books to offer a range of different stories focused on the same topic. These are rarely heard, deeply personal stories that explain how these men coped, how they grew up, and how they eventually healed—or didn’t—from deeply troubling experiences.


  • Provides an unprecedented presentation of a wide range of men's experiences growing up with a mentally ill parent that general readers will find fascinating and psychotherapists will find a rich resource for their own understanding, and to pass along to their clients
  • Tells real-life stories that men rarely discuss—how they feel and think about themselves, what they are afraid of, how they handle their emotional pain and confusion, and how they have moved forward in their lives
  • Reviews new understandings in boys' and men's psychology, and offers suggestions for strengthening families with a mentally ill parent, building personal resilience and repairing emotional damage
Susan L. Nathiel, PhD, LMFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Hamden, CT. Her published work includes Daughters of Madness: Growing Up and Older with a Mentally Ill Mother.


"Poignant, heartbreaking, and searingly real, the accounts of these sons will leave a mark on you as a reader and on the entire field of mental health. In case you believe that stigma is solved or that openness has uniformly replaced silence, read these chapters, which are sensitively synthesized by Susan Nathiel. A highly recommended volume."—Stephen P. Hinshaw, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley; Vice Chair of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, and Editor of Psychological Bulletin
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