Michael Rolfson, an accomplished psychologist who was forced to cut short his career after suffering a psychotic break, died of a stroke on Jan. 25. He was 60 years old.
A graduate of Milwaukie High School, Rolfson worked in psychology for the better part of two decades as teacher, counselor and therapist. He lectured at Portland State University, Marylhurst College and Portland Community College. He served as a counselor for an Oakland street gang and treated serial killers at the California State Prison. "Not many people could stand to be in the same room with these folks, let alone try to help them," says friend and colleague Jim Baker. "He went where angels feared to tread."
Co-author of a textbook titled Case Studies of Mental Health Paraprofessionals, Rolfson was also an actor, a trombonist and an "absolute girl magnet," according to his cousin Gary Bevers.
But overwork in the late '80s led to a psychotic break, and Rolfson was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and depressive psychosis. He had to give up his practice and submit himself to the public mental-health system that he once had been part of.
"I've seen madness from both sides now," he told WW two years ago ("Feeling the Squeeze," Feb. 12, 2003).
Rolfson died in his room at the Macdonald Residence, an assisted-care facility in Old Town.
A party will be thrown in his honor on Saturday, Feb. 5, from 4 to 9 pm. For more details, contact Kim Davalos at (541) 687-9378 or firstname.lastname@example.org.