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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Ralph Hoffman's Story

I owe my recovery to having been employed continuously from 1966 to 1986. However, it was job stress that led to my first hospitalization.

I was working in a petrochemical plant in 1968 when we had a "turnaround," a shutdown for maintenance in which minimizing the time it takes to get back on-stream is of the essence. Fourteen hours a day for 14 straight days, my job was to inspect vessels, furnaces, compressors, and other equipment of all shapes and sizes for damage, and then inspect them again when repaired.

I returned to work but, feeling anxious, I had my wife take me to our family physician. He referred me to a psychiatrist, who hospitalized me in a locked ward and put me on increasingly heavier doses of Thorazine, telling my wife not to come back for five days. I was given an unknown number of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatments three times a week, at much higher voltages and amperages than are permitted now. Finally, I was stabilized on Thorazine, place on an unlocked ward, and returned to full-time work two months from admission.

I have been hospitalized since, but for briefer stays. In 1978, my diagnosis was changed from schizophrenia to bipolar affective disorder, which is what it is today. In 1986, I received SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), with the aid of my company. Although I grew up in abject poverty in upstate New York, my wife and I have a net worth of over a million dollars, derived from my income.

I have just filed for the third time for non-partisan public office. Since I have been open about my psychiatric history in the press, I fully expect to lose some votes from those who harbor stigmatizing ideas about mental illnesses.

Ralph Hoffman

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