Current Affairs / Memoir / Non-Fiction

Book cover

UK Publisher

John Murray

Date Published

September 3rd, 2009

Dramatic Rights


‘About a year and a half before my own admission, after my father’s death, my mother’s grief led to neglect. Neglect of me, neglect of herself. She took to wandering the roads, wailing for my father, and I stayed off school to ‘look after her’, although I had as little idea of how to look after her as she had of looking after me.’

The author was first admitted to Claybury asylum aged sixteen in 1975, just after his mother had been institutionalised. She died two years later. He spent a decade in asylums, halfway houses, therapeutic communities, dosshouses, squats, and on the streets. Sectioned is his raw, powerful and moving story of survival against the odds. It is also the story of a man’s coming of age in a Britain that was changing forever. Sold at auction to Eleanor Birne at John Murray in June 2007.

Winner of the MIND Book of the Year.



- Arminta Wallace, Irish Times

The humdrum reality of mental illness has rarely been so well conveyed. It's less a story of locked wards than of hostels, soup kitchens, sheltered housing, drug addicts, well-meaning charity workers and relentless poverty. O'Donoghue is honest about his own failings... What saves him, in part, is poetry: he begins to write as a teenager and through most of his ordeals he keeps it up. Sectioned is too hard-edged for verse but it's a triumph that it exists at all and a vindication of O'Donoghue's faith: psychosis could easily have killed him, or the liquid cosh stunned him into silence, but here he is, against the odds, speaking loud and plain.

- Blake Morrison, Guardian

...Sectioned is a beautifully drawn account of his attempts to escape his mental straitjacket. He describes some very dark moments, particularly during those times when he was haunted by the voices of the entities he calls 'The Presence' and 'The Fire'. Yet there is not an ounce of self-pity for his 'lost' years, and the book is punctuated with moments of vibrant humour and a great sense of irony...

- Critchley, The Sunday Times

...O'Donoghue's gift for spinning compelling yarns lifts this material out of the suffering-saga-tag remainders bin. Sectioned should be compulsory reading for anyone working in the mental health system: they'll laugh, they'll cry, they'll think twice before using ECT.

- Disability Now

an eloquent and compelling insight into one person's battles with mental illness ... it is his literary powers and keen observations that shine through the murk ... alongside the pain there is little self-pity and plenty of humour

- Herald

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