Book Reviews

Follow a Congressman’s Journey Back from Crippling Anxiety

(courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – Review: Lost and Broken

Publisher: Health Communications Inc.

Author: Congressman Adam Smith

Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor

Zebra Rating–5 Stripes

Mental illnesses are common in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, or about 60 million. Mental illnesses include many conditions that vary from mild to moderate to severe.

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the U.S. since 1949. Every year during May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is part of a national movement to raise awareness about mental health. NAMI fights to overcome the negative stigmas associated with mental health issues, supports those in need, educates the public, and advocates for policies that support the millions of people affected by mental illness.

Dealing with pain and crippling anxiety while serving as an elected official, Congressman Smith bravely stepped out and chronicled his journey to overcome mental health issues. I asked the Congressman why he took on such a personal and sensitive topic.

“I wrote the book to better understand what I had gone through,” he said. “I wanted a detailed summary while those experiences were still fresh. I felt this could help me in the overall effort to understand my mind and body better and to continue to build on the improvements I had achieved in my mental and physical health.

“I decided to share the book publicly because I understand how many people suffer from similar mental and physical challenges and believe that sharing my story can help them find a path to getting better. Stigma against seeking treatment is a major impediment to people seeking help. I can help reduce that problem by being public with my own struggles.”

When a person is said to have “mental health issues,” there is an immediate negative connotation in any setting, from family and social circles to work and recreational environments. Reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues will increase people admitting to and seeking treatment for mental health problems. This is one key takeaway from the Congressman’s work.

Understanding mental health issues is another. Two broad categories describe these conditions: Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI encompasses all recognized mental illnesses. SMI is a smaller and more severe subset of AMI.

The AMI list of disorders is long and includes anxieties, disorders like eating and social, sleep-wake disorders, panic, and phobias. Work and everyday life pressures for one person may be normal but paralyzing for others. As readers navigate Smith’s book, this point is well-detailed. Getting help (correct diagnosis and treatment) is critical to recovery.

Smith commented, “… our health care system’s limitations mean that you will have to work harder at this process than you will expect to or should have to. You must actively work with your health care providers to find the right answers to what is wrong and how to treat it.”

Adam Smith, reelected for his 14th term in 2022, is a Member of Congress representing the 9th District of the State of Washington and the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He has been married for 30 years to Sara, and they have two children, ages 23 and 20. Smith remains a lifelong resident of Bellevue, Washington, in the district he serves.

Rep. Adam Smith (Photo: courtesy Adam Smith)

Congressman Smith’s work, Lost and Broken, is a well-written, nicely organized, honest assessment of dealing with mental illness and chronic physical pain. From his personal experiences, he discusses all facets, from associated mental health stigma to the weaknesses and complications in the healthcare system. Many readers can benefit from Smith’s very personal journey. Smith recalled from his Jesuit education at Fordham University, “Epicureans reasoned: true pleasure is the absence of pain and fear.” Zebra rating: 5 Stripes.

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