In memory of Jake

What happened to Jake?

Seven years after being hospitalized in a psych ward, my brilliant, funny, sensitive, artistic, shining star of a son died as a homeless person after being struck by an Amtrak train in Santa Barbara.

Impossible, sickening, and yet it happened.

I can remember when he was a newly minted mental patient, admitted to OSU’s psych ward at age 21. I and some of Jake’s other supporters were consulting with the people in white coats about his prognosis which was, in their estimation, either grim or grimmer. They did not want to give us any hope for his recovery. In frustration and wanting to inject some hope into the discussion, my long-time friend Drew, who had known Jake since he was two and had come to the psych ward out of love and caring, said, “Couldn’t it be that Jake has simply had a good old-fashioned nervous breakdown?” The resident snapped back, “There’s no such thing.”

Really. And why not?

What I have learned in the time since Jake’s death is that despite what mainstream psychiatry likes to purport, people recover from psychotic disorders all the time, all over the world. I have met many of these survivors personally. I have also been told by a psychiatrist/former schizophrenia patient that one of the worst places you can take a psychotic young person for help is the psych ward of a teaching hospital, which unfortunately was precisely where Jake landed.

If, when Jake had his crisis, we had lived in northern Finland, where psychosis is treated in a radically hopeful way, he would likely not only be alive today, but also thriving. Sadly, we were living in the U.S., where young people who experience psychosis are told that they have some sort of debilitating brain disease for which there is no cure. What could be more hopeless?

But let me inject some hope back into this story. In the past few years, I have met dozens of people who have fully recovered from “psychotic disorders.” All of them had to break away from mainstream psychiatry in order to find wholeness and healing.

In a 2005 interview for MedScape, former schizophrenia patient Daniel B. Fisher MD, PhD, was asked about his own journey of recovery from schizophrenia. He said,

“I was lucky — I was able to find a psychiatrist who was able to provide me with many of the principles we find have worked in recovery. He believed in me. When I told him, several months after coming out of the hospital the second time with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, that I wanted to go to medical school and become a psychiatrist, he said he would be at my medical school graduation. And about 7 years later, he was there.”

In a 2009 interview for the U.K.’s Independent, former schizophrenia patient Eleanor Longden stated,

“My original psychiatrist told me I would have been better off with cancer because it was easier to cure. She still says that to people. What happened to me was catastrophic, and I survived only because of luck. If I had lived one street to the right, I wouldn’t have been referred to [innovative psychiatrist] Pat Bracken. That can’t be how people’s lives are determined.”

And so, dear reader, have you noticed the common ingredient in these two remarkable recovery stories?

Luck.

For way too many people diagnosed with psychotic disorders, recovery depends on luck. We need to remove luck from this equation and replace it with faith and hope and the truth about the real possibility for wholeness and wellness, so that we don’t have to rely on dumb luck. In 2010 I gave a talk for TEDx Columbus about innovative psychiatrists who have successfully helped people overcome psychotic disorders. A link to that talk is provided here on Rossa’s blog. We as a society must demand a new paradigm (or rather, a return to an old one) that helps the mentally and emotionally suffering to get well and stay well.

Who’s with me?

Please listen to Suzanne Beachy’s message: TedxTalks What’s Next for the Truth?
Any diagnosis of mental illness results in a complicated and uncertain fate for those it strikes. When you lose a son as a result of such a diagnosis, it ignites a search for answers. Suzanne Beachy has gained a perspective on life as a result of her loss but is still asking, what is the truth?

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14 thoughts on “In memory of Jake”

  1. I’m with you Suzanne! Thank you for speaking truth to power! Far too few do; or even understand why it is needed. Bless you for having the grace and fortitude say it like it is.

  2. I was deeply touched by this story. I am so aware that it could have been me mourning my son if it hadn’t been for luck. Firstly I knew all about nervous breakdowns, having experienced one at the age of 19 and recovered from it with the support of my parents. So, I didn’t believe anything the psychiatrists were spouting and told my son repeatedly not to listen to any of it. Secondly I was lucky to find him in time and get help when he tried to kill himself because of the side effects of the meds he had been forcibly put on. No, no it shouldn’t be about luck, these young people deserve proper help, love and tender care and hope.

  3. HOW NOT TO BECOME A SCHIZOPHRENIC
    Jake’s story made me weep. I don’t like having to say this, but if I had a child with an old-fashioned “nervous breakdown” I would do just about anything to avoid taking him/her to the average psychiatrist. When I was in my 20’s I had a “nervous breakdown.” But I had read a couple of books by Dr Carl Jung, and I interpreted my symptoms as a sign of what he called Individuation, or becoming a whole person. Often, he said, this process involves considerable psychological suffering. So I went to a psychiatrist to get some help going through the experience. (Yeh, I know, I was young and naive.) I could see right away that he thought I was already bonkers and off the deep end, so I left his office and went back home, and just kept my mouth shut and toughed it out. Not easy, for sure! But in a few days I got a little better, and instead of talking and getting myself locked up, I did what Jung suggested – I got out my typewriter and wrote about my blazing insights and brilliant ideas. I look back on all this now as the most valuable experience of my life, as I ended up going back to school as a result. I was not only normal, I was better than normal – just as Jung said I would be. And it still seems to me the “medical model” psychiatrists are doing far more harm than good with their abysmal lack of common sense. Too many Jakes have suffered and even died because of them.

  4. Mary – Thanks for commenting. A lot of people need to hear what your experience was and how you dealt with it. I wish I was well schooled in Jung before my son got entangled in the mental health system!

  5. Replace luck with real hope and faith In the possibility of healing? The “possibility” of healing should replace Dr. Allen Frances’ assertion that mental health diagnoses are often extremely helpful?

    That proposition is not only silly, it is dangerous. Dangerous. Relying upon hope and faith in the possibility that something besides a diagnosis by a competent, conscientious psychiatrist is rolling the dice. Be careful, be very careful before you buy into brash, well-sounding but untested theories. Don’t accept as gospel everything you read whether pro-psychiatry or anti-psychiatry. Think. Study. Digest. Mull over. Read position papers on opposite sides of the issue. Talk with trusted, well-well-informed people before jumping into anything as important as medical treatment or refusing it. If alternative medical techniques are valid and pose little risk, then going that route is based on intelligent choices.

    1. Dr. Allen Frances is a fraud. All psychiatrists are. Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. It’s nothing more than 21st Century Phrenology, with neurotoxins, which it euphemistically mis-labels as “meds”. They are DRUGS. And drugs are drugs, are drugs, are drugs…. The DSM-5 is a catalog of billing codes, and ALL of the alleged “diagnoses” in it are bogus, and invented. Psychiatry is the pimp of PhRMA.
      As for the wretched Dr. Frances? You know, I’m sure, that he was head of the DSM-IV committee, and later trashed the DSM-5 for it’s fraudulent, bogus, made-up “mental illnesses”. So-called “mental illnesses” are exactly as real as presents from Santa Claus. Too often, a psych diagnosis becomes both a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the equivalent of a sentence of “life, without possibility of parole”. Saying there’s such a thing as a “competent, conscientious psychiatrist” is exactly like saying “compassionate, humane pimp and drug dealer”. The lies of psychiatry have done, and continue to do, far more harm than good. At best, the psychs leave folks wounded with a permanent case of IATROGENIC NEUROLEPSIS.
      (c)2017, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction

  6. Daniel B Fisher remained on psychiatric drugs through his acute phase of schizophrenia, which was crucial for his recovery. Knowledgeable medical doctors are aware that recovery from first episodic schizophrenia occurs occasionally. Ever since I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN was published, the public has known recovery exists outside medicinal treatment.

    Jake graduated from Ohio State University three years after he experienced his psychotic manifestation. If psychiatry had ruined his outlook on life, and his will to move on with his life, how did he manage to earn a degree?

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