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David Stolper’s death may help other bipolar patients

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SUZANNE BELLING

His father, Capetonian Chad Stolper, has written a book, “Too Difficult to Explain – A Bi-polar Conundrum” about his son. It will be launched next week.

Written with David’s two sisters, Brianne and Lalitte, the book traces David’s life and sudden death and also takes a close look at the facilities and treatment – and their shortcomings – available to those suffering from mental illness.

In the preface to the book, social worker and authority on mental health issues, Shona Sturgeon, called the book “an important contribution to the literature on mental illness”.

She added that the issues identified and lessons learnt were very relevant to a wide audience.

Chad and his wife Adelaine left South Africa shortly after their marriage because of their opposition to apartheid. Their three children were born and brought up in England.

David was a talented tennis player, but not quite good enough to make it to the professional ranks. He gave up tennis at the age of 18 and his illness really manifested soon afterwards, although there had been earlier warning signs.

Chad returned to South Africa in 1999, three years after his wife died. David joined him soon afterwards, following hospitalisation in England. He had been released from hospital but relapsed, possibly because of a lack of social work follow-up.

Chad Stolper told the SA Jewish Report that his son was living with the nightmare, but became an activist for people who were mentally ill when he encountered difficulties with his own treatment by both institutions and doctors in Cape Town.

His criticism of the Valkenberg Hospital, the Cape Town psychiatric hospital, resulted in his being regarded as a troublemaker by psychiatrists there, said Chad.

He added that after David’s death, “I had the overwhelming feeling that his life had been completely wasted because he had not fulfilled his wish to help fellow sufferers in a meaningful way.

“The main reason that I wrote the book was so that David could achieve in death what he couldn’t in life,” he said.

David became an activist when he became a state patient, Chad Stolper said.

“He appeared to be more interested in fighting the system than gaining his freedom. His late mother, Addy, became his role model because she was a psychiatric social worker who successfully fought causes in and out of work and David desperately wanted to emulate her.”

The book hopes to show how the system failed him. “If only a few others would benefit, then David’s life would have had meaning.”

Chad Stolper’s wide-ranging research for the book included interviewing several local and overseas medical experts and lay people involved in treating mental illness, as well as examining the systems and innovations in both the US and Britain.

The book aims to help bring about changes that would benefit patients at South African hospitals for the mentally ill.

“Much of the trauma David experienced as a bipolar sufferer could have been reduced,” Chad Stolper said.

* The book launches are in Johannesburg at 19:30 on Tuesday, June 30, at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre and in Cape Town on Thursday, August 13, at the Jacob Gitlin Library. The launches will be chaired by Professor Melvyn Freeman, chief director for non-communicable diseases at the Ministry of Health.

 

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1 Comment

  1. R. SEGERMAN

    Jul 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    ‘Please will you let me know where i can purchase a copy of this book.’

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