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Saturday, April 6, 2013


This book is called The Insanity Machine because in 1978 Kenna McKinnon chatted with another inmate in the old 5C forensic psychiatry ward at Alberta Hospital Edmonton and planned to write it someday. Today the book is written as planned 34 years ago. It had many setbacks and at least two professionals promised to write it with Kenna but withdrew before any further commitments were made. Now, today, Austin Mardon and Kenna Mary McKinnon join memories and talent to bring into the light a mental illness that was shoved into a dark attic only a generation ago, and often today as well. That illness is called schizophrenia. 

Both Kenna and Austin have a form of the illness called paranoid schizophrenia, characterized by delusions, hallucinations and withdrawal from reality. They have been successfully treated and both live different but useful and meaningful lives.
The purpose of our stories is to offer hope to those who read this book, and elucidation to those ignorant of the wonders and ravages of mental illness; to those employers, friends and family who misunderstood us and our fellow travelers. To those who told Kenna she was "bad" or "weak," those who didn't understand the consequences of a serious mental disorder that turned a pile of clothing into snakes and chased Kenna's subconscious into labyrinths of Hell and images of the Devil for 20 years of her initial illness. To those who advised Austin to undergo sterilization within three months of his diagnosis, and who interfered with his decision to marry in 2006 because presumably they thought he didn't have the capacity to make that decision. 

Kenna has three children, all caring, intelligent, independent adults who contribute to society in their own awesome way. She raised the two younger herself, with the help of family members after she became ill. Gratitude especially to her brother Byron, and his wife Diane, who quit her job to care for the two children when Kenna first became magnificently and sporadically psychotic. The children may bear the scars today but don't show them certainly at this Millennium of Magnificence, because of the strength of their genes and perhaps the love that was there but often hidden, their own innate honesty and goodness, perhaps even because of their early struggles which led to compassion, courage and strength. They are good and healthy adults. 

The eldest child, raised by loving adoptive parents, is also a delight. Living sometimes with his own demons with a faith that is foreign to Kenna's family, he was born when Kenna was 17 years old and unable to raise her new baby at the time; he was placed by the Salvation Army in a loving adoptive family. Their faith, his upbringing, and also his genes have made him strong, gentle and compassionate. 

This book was not always easy to write. We won't bore you, the reader, with useless details but will go right into our stories, and the story of schizophrenia in our country today and yesterday, in our cities and individual homes—even the streets, hospitals and jails. 

There will be some statistics and particularly many anecdotes gleaned especially by Austin from acquaintances and friends over 19 years. He has been an advocate for others who haven't always had the success we have enjoyed and so he has heard their stories. Kenna made this journey mostly on her own by her choice since she first became ill in 1975. Contact with others like her or even those who might understand was limited until now.

We're thankful that we live in Canada where medical treatment is provided at no charge to the consumer. We're thankful for those who understand. We're thankful for those with bipolar illness, anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, autism, and all the other forms taken by what mental health professionals label as mental illness. Thank God for you all, and the professionals who successfully and compassionately treat us.  Bless the homeless who sleep by the curb, thank God for our own warm beds and good food, and a roof over our heads at night. We're thankful for health at last.

There are many people we haven't mentioned. We have been angry. We have been abused and misunderstood. Ignorance and fear have reared their monstrous hydra heads all too frequently throughout our adult lives. We come from dysfunctional backgrounds. We are children of God but have been disrespected and sometimes treated as refuse, and by those very institutions and people who purport to help those who cannot help themselves. We have also been held and protected, and given chances that others like us do not have. Employers have been understanding. Friends and family have often provided support. We found a religious faith and we've walked with gods. We are grateful for this.

In spite of the disappointments and occasional anger, this book was written with love and compassion. Enter its doors and see for yourself. Feel the light on your head. It's the story of one percent of our world's population and our walk with Schizophrenia.


Judith Hansen is a friend and editor who has thoughtfully and intelligently edited this book. We commend her for her thoroughness and patience; however, Austin and Kenna take responsibility for any omissions or errors in the manuscript. Without Judi's professionalism and friendship the book would not be the finished product it is.

We also acknowledge our friends, family, co-workers, doctors, nurses, the legal system, therapists and the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta for insights, love, support and patience over the years, without which we would not be the people we are today. 

Understanding the stigma of mental illness is almost impossible for those who haven't experienced it.

Do you want to discover more about this "hidden" illness?

The Insanity Machine is available on Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, and selected bookstores. Find your copy here.

You may also be interested in this post, can people with schizophrenia work?

???? My head understanding the stigma of mental illness ????


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  2. This comment showed up in spam but I released it as I think someone might be interested in physical fitness as a means of achieving mental health. I certainly am, but I note this might be a dating site. If it is, you perhaps have misunderstood this blog, Anonymous. I do believe there's a place for dumbbells and physical fitness, though, and would welcome all comments.

  3. Steve Finnell said, "You are invited to follow my blog." His comment doesn't show up here due to a malfunction in blogger, I believe. His blog is at I followed Steve's interesting Christian blog and hope you follow me back, Steve.

  4. I write a blog which I have entitled “Accordingtothebook” and I’d like to invite you to follow it. I’m your newest follower.

  5. Thank you, I will check that out and follow you. Thank you so much for following me. All comments and followers are very special to me. Do come back and comment again.

  6. This book was areal eye-opener for me. Kenna and I are friends, and she totally amazes me with her wisdom, acuity, humor and courage. "The Insanity Machine" should be required reading for all health professionals. It certainly, as I mentioned, opened my eyes!

  7. Thank you, Judi. It should be noted that Judi edited this book. Acuity, that means crazy, right? LOL

  8. Hi Kenna,
    I am interested in reading your book in the near future. In my life I have known quite a few people that have this condition and even at now there is an in law that is suffering through something and I have much compassion for her but not much insight. God bless you Kenna.

  9. I do hope my book helps you to better understand your family member. It's a much misunderstood illness.