Cover image for The angel and the dragon : a father's search for answers to his son's mental illness and suicide
The angel and the dragon : a father's search for answers to his son's mental illness and suicide
Aurthur, Jonathan, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Deerfield Beach, Fla. : Health Communications, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 363 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC464.A93 A933 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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On November 1, 1996, Charley Aurthur leapt to his death from a freeway overpass in Santa Monica, California. He was twenty-three years old. It was the culmination of five years of heartache for Charley and his family, as he struggled with severe mental illness, numerous hospitalizations and several other suicide attempts. Despite his family's love, intensive therapy and numerous medications, in the end, nothing could save Charley from his own encroaching sense of exhaustion and isolation.

Tragically, Charley's story could be anybody's story. In the United States, more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year; it is the eighth leading cause of death overall and the third among young people aged 15-24. But the effects of suicide are even more far-reaching: Its impact on the family is frequently devastating and lifelong.

Author Jonathan Aurthur knows this firsthand. His account of his son Charley's short life and death is both riveting and compelling. Charley's own letters, poems and journal entries demonstrate the terrible complexity and multidimensionality of mental illness and suicide. In the process, the author addresses his own search to understand mental illness and the inability of many medical treatments to help troubled people like Charley. He also offers an alternative treatment plan known as the "psychosocial rehab" model, which seeks to "treat the person, not the disease." This page-turner will stay with readers long after they've heard Charley's story.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Equal parts tribute to a short life and guide for parents of troubled children is Jonathan Aurthur's The Angel and the Dragon: A Father's Search for Answers to His Son's Suicide: The Myths and Realities of Mental Illness. Aurthur's son, Charley, committed suicide at age 23. A series of calls and letters from physicians, counselors, detectives, friends and even Charley himself led up to the suicide, and in this introspective yet educational book, Aurthur explains how parents can heed warning signs from their own children to prevent a fate similar to Charley's. His understandable descriptions of psychotropic drugs and honest account of bringing his son to the hospital's psychiatric ward make this a valuable resource for parents of children with mental illness. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



PrologueOn Saturday, November 2, 1996, a photograph appeared in the Santa Monica Outlook accompanied by a brief text. The photo shows a police officer standing on an otherwise deserted freeway, holding a clipboard and bending over, examining the pavement. A few feet in back of him is a tarpaulin covering something close to the ground. The text reads: Bicyclist Jumps Off Bridge A CHP officer conducts an investigation on the westbound Santa Monica Freeway where a Santa Monica man apparently jumped to his death off the Lincoln Boulevard overpass on Friday morning.The driver of a Porsche was taken to an area hospital for head and neck injuries, after the man fell on his car, Santa Monica police Sgt. Garry Gallinot said.The incident occurred at 8:43 a.m. The westbound side of the freeway was closed until 11 a.m."Witnesses indicated he rode his bicycle to the overcrossing, climbed over the railing, looked down for a few minutes and jumped," Gallinot said.The twenty-three-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene.His name was not released because relatives had not been notified. The twenty-three-year-old man's name was Charley Aurthur, my son. The text was wrong in one detail. I had been notified of his death a couple of hours after it happened, although not by the police. Charley had jumped from the overpass while I was at work on Friday morning. A little before eleven a representative of the Los Angeles County coroner's office, finding my address on Charley's driver's license recovered from his body, came to my apartment looking for me. When he found no one there he knocked on the door of a neighbor, who was home and had my number at work. The neighbor called me. This call was the last in a series of phone calls about Charley I had been getting for more than five years. Five years and three months and six days, actually, since July 26, 1991, also a Friday. Calls from highway patrolmen, calls from school physicians and school counselors, calls from heart surgeons, calls from detectives, calls from psychiatrists and psychotherapists of various persuasions, calls from relatives, calls from Charley's friends, calls from Charley himself. Calls ranging from confusing to disquieting to horrifying to miraculous to horrifying. Calls that echo now in my memory like the clang of nails closing a coffin. Some of the calls had that sound at the time-the jangling phone the clanging gong of impending doom. Others didn't. All were part of a drama whose meaning I am still trying to understand, a drama that began in confusion and misunderstanding, evolved (at least for me) into some kind of certainty, and then dissolved again into confusion, with no hope of any final understanding. But perhaps through the telling of the story, letting Charley speak for himself as much as possible, some more of him and the meaning of his life and death will be revealed. Chapter 2 - Wrong Turn at YosemiteThe First Day of the Rest of His Life Tuesday morning, Jul Excerpted from The Angel and the Dragon: A Father's Search for Answers to His Son's Mental Illness and Suicide by Jonathan Aurthur All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
1. Prologuep. 1
2. Wrong Turn at Yosemite
The First Day of the Rest of His Lifep. 3
The Second Crashp. 13
"I'm Being Devoured by Tigers"p. 16
The Gospel According to St. John'sp. 18
Oh, Yes, the Carp. 25
San Francisco Generalp. 31
3. "The Brightest Little Boy in the Whole Park"
Derelict Keysp. 37
The Journalsp. 40
Parenthood: No Statute of Limitationsp. 44
Insomnia--or, "Do I Have Genius?"p. 49
"... Or Shall I Go Mad?"p. 52
The Wandererp. 56
The Rationalistp. 64
4. "One More Bloody Year of Reed"
Year Two--Two Immortalitiesp. 67
Once More to the Underworldp. 77
"A Nice Birthday Present for Sis"p. 86
A Layman's Guide to Major Mental Illnessp. 91
Delirious Maniap. 95
The Muse Is a Harsh Mistressp. 100
Who's Crazy?p. 103
Madness: Divine or Not? Two Viewsp. 104
5. M. Butterfly and Mr. Lithy
Getting Back on the Horsep. 111
M. Butterflyp. 114
Mr. Lithyp. 122
Three on a Honeymoonp. 128
Fight and Flightp. 133
"I'm Sorry to Have to Tell You This, Sir ..."p. 135
My Drug Epiphany; or, The Morphine Connectionp. 148
"Some Failed Romantic Relationship"p. 151
Eight Westp. 160
6. Weaving the Shround
"A Desire Leading One to Death"p. 181
The Suicidologistp. 185
The (Almost) Smoking-Gun Pamphletp. 187
River Communityp. 193
Another Nailp. 196
Home Alonep. 200
Groundlessness, Common Ground and the Future of Psychiatryp. 208
Footnote to 1995p. 213
7. The Final Year
"A Place of Stopping, Not of Recuperation ..."p. 215
NAMIp. 223
Treating the Disease or Treating the Person? The Rehab Modelp. 230
Good Minutes, Good Hoursp. 239
"And I Believe I Shan't Ever Return" (The Quiet Hell of August)p. 240
8. The Stone Cross
All Saints' Dayp. 255
Obituaryp. 262
The "Iawaska" Mystery Solvedp. 276
Sunday Afternoon in the Psych Ward with the Kidsp. 284
9. Epilogue: A View from the Bridgep. 287
Acknowledgmentsp. 291
Appendix A Selected Poems of Charley'sp. 295
Appendix B Short Story (The Pool Lesson)p. 307
Appendix C Apples, Big Apples and Tangerinesp. 313
Appendix D Charley's Smoking Listp. 327
Appendix E Contact Information for Alternative Recovery Facilitiesp. 329
Notesp. 331
Selected Bibliographyp. 347
Indexp. 351