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March 27: Photography Professor Charlee Brodsky Releases New Book About People's Experiences With Mental Illness


Eric Sloss                           

Carnegie Mellon Photography Professor Charlee Brodsky
Releases New Book About People's Experiences With Mental Illness

PITTSBURGH—"I Thought I Could Fly: Portraits of Anguish, Compulsion, and Despair," a book of real-life accounts of mental illness edited and with photos by Carnegie Mellon University School of Design Photography Professor Charlee Brodsky, is now available at and can be ordered through local bookstores. 
Brodsky's Book "As I tapped into the world of mental illness — or more rightly put — as my world imploded because of my daughter's illness, I saw stigma, lack of understanding, misdiagnosis, poor health insurance, bad doctors and a lack of doctors," Brodsky said. "But I also encountered great, empathetic people — including professionals — who were dedicated to working with families. And, I met amazing people who live with mental illness because they or a family member have a mental illness diagnosis. Unless you have experience with mental illness, it's hard to understand the profound effect that it has on people's lives. "
Brodsky's participation in the book was driven by her own experiences of raising a child with bipolar disorder. Through her family's experiences, Brodsky learned about the stigma society places on those with mental illness and the profound difficulties and sometimes tortured lives of those living with mental illness. Through the book's 36 emotionally wrenching narratives, Brodsky hopes to create more understanding about the impact of mental illness and also to erode the shame attached to having a mental illness.
Bellevue Literary Press, a joint venture of the Bellevue Literary Review and the New York University School of Medicine, published the book. The Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic (WPIC) of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center funded the book.
"This book is the compilation of personal stories from those who have lived, and currently live, with mental illness; those who advocate and insist upon being heard; and those who use their voices to speak out for those who have not yet learned to use their voices," said Claudia Roth, president and CEO of WPIC and vice president of Behavioral Health at UPMC. "We thank them for sharing the gift of their stories. We hope they have found healing in telling their stories and that readers will be enlightened by this book."
The book also contains an essay, "Beyond Fear and Stigma," that tracks society's reaction to mental illness through history. The essay is by Carnegie Mellon faculty members Jane McCafferty, a creative writer, and George Loewenstein, a leader in the field of behavioral economics and neuroeconomics.
"This timely and engaging book mixes heartfelt journalism and emotionally engaging photography," said Dr. Suzanne Vogel-Scribillia, former president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "I comment on this topic as a consumer with bipolar disorder, as a daughter and mother of people with bipolar disorder, and as a psychiatrist who specializes in treating serious and persistent mood disorders." 
The photos are available for display by contacting Brodsky at
Currently, Brodsky is working on a project with adults with cognitive disabilities. Brodsky received degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and Yale University.