The diagnosis is not just the death of hope

In memory of Jake, I would like to take up several of the excellent points that Suzanne Beachy highlighted in her guest post. Suzanne’s belief about Jake’s fate that it, like many deaths in the so-called “schizophrenia” population, could be directly linked to the dismal diagnosis, is something that I hadn’t quite considered in that stark a way. She’s absolutely right. From my own experience, I know how the dismal diagnosis, the acceptance by the medical profession of the chronicity of schizophrenia, permeated our household. My husband and I were encouraged by the mental health system to see our son as hopeless. This led us to say the wrong things to Chris, to treat him like a child, to insist on the drugs that the doctors assured us were the only treatment, to cry over his lost opportunities, to get angry with him for constantly eating, to fight amongst ourselves.

One night, several years ago, a few months before he entered the psychiatric hospital for the third time, Chris got hit by a car. He was psychotic. Luckily, he was only grazed. I never told his psychiatrist about this because I was so against the drugs, having seen how little they had helped him, and I knew that the psychiatrist would insist that he go back on them. This was my ill-advised reaction to where the diagnosis had taken us. Chris could have been killed, but I was still in the dark about how to help him get better.

Parental divorce can also be one of the outcomes of the diagnosis. My husband and I, luckily still happily married,  weren’t the only ones, apart from Chris, affected by the diagnosis. Try convincing your friends and relatives after you’ve finally seen the light that your relative will fully recover one day, and you may find they don’t share your optimism. They, too, have been affected by the diagnosis. Everybody “knows” that schizophrenia is incurable.

Let’s begin with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, which crushes all hope. Suzanne writes: 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.”

So, a newly minted medical student who has been over-schooled in the psychopharmacology of the brain, but hasn’t been on this earth long enough to know about nervous breakdowns or the human spirit, becomes the messenger of doom, the thought leader on how we parents react to the diagnosis and shape our children’s lives (for the worse, I may add) for the next decade.

There is no such thing as a nervous breakdown today because, I strongly suspect, drugs had not been invented nor given for such a condition in the past. Best not to call it a nervous breakdown today. Call it schizophrenia, call it bipolar, call it depression, and we’ve got a drug now or in the pipeline to treat it. The medical student is too young and naive to have figured out that the tail is wagging the dog — doctors are now doing pharma’s work. (See my post on What ever became of the nervous breakdown?)

Suzanne writes: 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.

(In the same vein, if you want to avoid a caesarean birth, don’t go to a teaching hospital.)

A teaching hospital (CAMH in Toronto) is exactly where my husband and I were coerced into losing all hope about Chris’s future. CAMH was about to give him electroshock treatment (no information divulged to us about the controversy), and if I remember correctly, my husband and I were disappointed that Chris was unable to participate in a research study. (He was moving to another country.) But now I know: Medical students could learn a lot from watching Chris’s electroshock treatment. Today, I thank my lucky stars that Chris managed to avoid both of these treatments. CAMH is ideally situated a stone’s throw from the University of Toronto main campus, and can therefore conduct research on endless streams of young treatment naive male students and their parents.

Suzanne writes: 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.

What I appreciate about Suzanne is how positive she remains, in the face of much personal tragedy. If psychiatry refuses to give us hope, we, parents, relatives and psychiatric survivors, can make it our personal mission to show people where hope can be found. Suzanne and I have listened to ex-patients and arrived at the same conclusion — If you want to be fully recovered, you must break away from mainstream psychiatry and mainstream thinking.

24 thoughts on “The diagnosis is not just the death of hope”

  1. Things you are saying ring so true: when the psychiatrists came out with their diagnosis of “severe mental illness” for our son, my husband accepted their diagnosis and left them to do what they thought was right. But it just didn’t seem right to me and I kicked up a fuss. I could not believe that my husband was so blind and I felt that he was letting us both down-our son and me.That I had to battle “the specialist” on my own made life ten times more difficult. I am glad I did now and my son has been off all medications for over three years and perfectly fine. What I found even more disturbing was that the mental health services tried to work on him behind my back: telling him that he is suffering from an illness there is no cure for. He might be all right for now but that he is bound to have a relapse some day.

  2. There is a new book “Rethinking Madness” by Paris Williams, a young man diagnosed as schizophrenic who recovered and went on to become a clinical psychologist. This book tells it like it is and presents a whole new paradigm for treatment. It’s had some very favorable reviews and I HOPE is the wave of the future. See a review at


    1. Telling it like it is? If someone tells you psychiatric drugs worked wonderfully for his lifelong battle with depression, is that telling it like it is or not? Can people have positive responses long-term to drugs used to treat mental illness and be valued for their experience?

  3. Rossa,

    A psychiatric diagnosis cannot be taken as a life sentence.

    Nor can it be taken as a death sentence.

    It is neither.

    I am reminded of a verse –

    “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.”


  4. Hey – Anonymous – You must be my double! What you describe mirrors what I went through. I seemed to be the only person at times who was arguing with the psychiatrist about the wisdom of the treatment.
    Mary and Duane – thanks for the comments, and I’ll definitely check out the book.

  5. “Couldn’t it be that Jake has simply had a good old-fashioned nervous breakdown?” The resident snapped back, “There’s no such thing.”

    Because they won’t allow it. As soon as they see a symptom list they medicate the patient with psychotropics and are in fact interfering with a natural process. A person in psychos and in crisis is in a state of heightened awareness I was once – it was like ‘shock therapy’ , a natural shock therapy I was horrified and frightened of what had been happening to me, but I had ‘woken up’ – the problem I had was that I was not in a safe environment and I did not have a reassuring guide

  6. Jake was the child of divorce. He assumed an attitude of entitlement. He used drugs and drank. He was jailed. He was kicked out of his step-father’s house. He was hospitalized for a psychotic episode. He left the hospital against medical advice with his mother’s assistance. Finally, she kicked him out one last time, sending him away on a bus to California. His birth father seems strangely silent.
    Notified by police and complete strangers that her son was living next to a dumpster and was hungry Ms. Beachy didn’t go get him. She left him in that condition knowing he had had a psychotic break, to fend for himself as a destitute, homeless person. Why didn’t she go to California to rescue her child and how can she blame psychiatry for his plight and death?

    1. This post is about the effects of the diagnosis causing people to lose all hope for recovery, which, I know, from experience, causes parents to treat their family member more harshly than they might otherwise do, than if, instead, they were told that recovery was not only possible, but probable, and that their relative isn’t suffering from a brain disease. NAMI, supposedly the voice of the mentally ill, and other organizations, tell parents to practice “tough love,” which is what Suzanne Beachy was doing. To this day, she deeply regrets this decision. I have no idea if NAMI, et al, still adhere to the tough love practice. Watching someone sink to rock bottom, can also mean that you lose them. It’s a gamble. Using drugs and alcohol, and getting arrested, are often part of the territory of psychosis, especially absent a humane understanding of what the person is going through.

  7. Ms. Beachy blames a premature and inaccurate psychiatric diagnosis for her son’s homelessness. Three years after he was hospitalized, he graduated from college.

    Upon what information does she base her claim that his diagnosis was premature or that it was incorrect?

    “Jumping to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and starting long-term pharmaceutical treatments can turn a potentially temporary problem into a chronic one.” SB

    He was never diagnosed as schizophrenic and he was not required to take any medications for any length of time.

    1. I would like to explain why I didn’t approve you latest comment. I felt it was a personal attack on Ms Beachy and that you have information that only someone who knows her might know. I may be wrong about your knowing her personally. This is not a forum for personal attacks.

    2. Jacob Allen Snyder

      Didn’t have to die. We can’t hear him. We don’t know what he’d say if he could talk to us. But, his artwork speaks. He was too good for this world like Vincent.

      He was sick and his mom left him alone on the streets, hungry and destitute

      and she blames others.

  8. You seem to know a lot about Ms Beachy. So, what was the diagnosis, then? Whether the diagnosis was schizophrenia, bipolar or something else, given the downward spiral that her son embarked on, and that Ms Beachy attributes it to the diagnosis causing many people to lose all hope and self confidence, it seems logical that Ms. Beachy would fee the way she does.

    1. This commenter does not know anything about me or my family, Rossa. Nobody who knows me personally refers to me as “Sue.” ha ha ha

      My husband suggests I invite this person to our home for dinner. I think that’s a great idea. We will gladly answer all his/her questions about Jake’s six-and-a-half year struggle, even if it takes several hours. How about it, Perry’s Masonite? When might you have a free evening to join us for dinner and conversation? Do you have time next week? Next month? Let me know of any dietary restrictions you may have, OK?

  9. Rossa, you come across as a pleasant sincere person. I encourage you to look carefully at the comments of Suzanne. She is not pleasant. She is downright nasty. All you have to do is read her comments.

    1. Jerry, I assume you are referring to comments made by Ms Beachy elsewhere as there are none here in reply to this post or any nasty comments in response to other of my posts. Unlike some other bloggers, I don’t routinely censor people because I don’t agree with their comments. I don’t find your comment in any way offensive, but I also urge anyone who comments here to stick to the topic, not debate whether someone writing elsewhere is a good person or not. When I post articles from others I also don’t screen them for whether the authors believe in God, are nice to their family, or vote according to the way I would want them to. I happen to agree with Suzanne’s post as I feel exactly as she does, based on my own experience, that the diagnosis is the death of hope. I also know that her anger stems from living with her loss every single day and blaming herself in large part. I hope she loses some of that anger and finds peace.

      After this, if people still want to comment on this post, wonderful, but stick to the issues, please.

  10. Rossa, honesty and truthfulness and transparency are important. This person who proclaims she and her son were victims of psychiatry never admits publicly she was partly responsible for the tragedy in any way and that is not being honest. She is not advocating for her son as much as she is avoiding the real issues behind his homelessness and pain. She points the finger of blame at others and in doing so deflects the facts that she failed as a parent. Read what she says about and to others within the context of this topic.
    I prefer to let her son tell us what really happened. Since he isn’t here, we need to listen with our hearts to hear him. Not everyone who rejects psychiatry does so based on genuine dissatisfaction. If you look closely, Jake is the one who gets lost and betrayed in her numerous, varying accounts of his brief time on this planet. What really happeneded to him needs to be told. Jake spent 28 years among us. We owe it to him, a fellow human being, the right to be known for who he really was and what really happened to and within him, don’t you think? Please, read what she has been saying across the board. That’s really the key here. Jake is dead and we don’t know why.

  11. “You might say that what killed my son was an absence of hope. And also what killed my son was a deficiency of truth.” Sue B.

    What took away Jake’s hope? Hope for what? Which deficiencies of which truths killed Jake?

    “The truth is Complete recovery from psychosis is possible and even probable” Sue B.

    Where is the proof the doctors treating Jake told him he was never going to get well? He graduated from university after he had this break. Why does Sue insist psychiatry destroyed her son?

    “Well great harm did come to Jake and, sadly, I’ve discovered that love does not die with death.” Sue B.

    My gosh. Who ever said love for our children dies when they do? That is not news.

    “I love Jake as intensely as I ever did and I am so hurt and so angry that I could kill with by bare hands – I just want to kill all these lies with my bare hands.” Sue B.

    What lies? She left him there, diagnosed with Psychosis NOS, formerly jailed, drug and alcohol abusing, hungry and homeless.

    “I raised Jake for most of his childhood as a single mom. And for most of that I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task. But I had no doubt that if he were harmed I could kill with by bare hands if I had to protect him.” Sue B.

    Maybe she wasn’t up to the task, who knows? She didn’t have to kill anyone. She could have provided him with temporary and safe shelter where he could get nourishment and medical attention.

    “But Jake struggled mightily in his 20s, the last month of his life homeless, died at 28 struck by a train.” Sue B

    She refused to bring him home after police notified her where he was–living next to a dumpster–and that he was hungry.

    “What happened to Jake?
    Well some might say he had a mental illness, and in fact he did have an experience of psychosis shortly after 911. (Many call an experience of psychosis a mental illness. Makes sense.) Fifty years ago that’s what we might have called a good old nervous breakdown.” Sue B.

    Who confirms his manifestation of psychosis might have been called a nervous breakdown years ago?

    “But today the convention is that psychosis is s symptom of a serious chronic mental illness.” Sue B.

    It is pretty serious business.

    “And that’s just exactly how Jake’s problem was viewed in the psych Ward at Ohio State : a symptom of a life-long brain disease. On only his second day in the psych ward, right in front of his girlfriend the psychiatrist said [in teenager voice]: ”it’s probably schizophrenia”.” Sue B

    She assisted Jake to leave the hospital against medical advice. How were they to make a proper, non-premature diagnosis? She believes his diagnosis was premature and incorrect. How does she arrive at those conclusions and who says she is correct? She does. What does a teenager sound like, BTW? Did she prefer that his doctors lie about his condition? Was she going to try to hide what happened to Jake from his girlfriend?

    Sue labels others in exactly the same fashion she hates them to be used. Jake received his degree from Ohio State University years after she claims psychiatry ruined her son’s outlook and robbed him of motivation.

    1. perry’s masonite: i’m so sad for you. i can’t imagine the pain or rage you must be experiencing to spew such vitriol. i have a prescription for you—- read a holy book. meditate. take a mini vacation. therapy might help, too. and stop attacking a grieving woman.

  12. Oh my lord Perry Masonite, you are either just a downright nasty piece of work or else you have some hidden agenda for writing such hatred about Ms. Beachy….I have a feeling our paths have crossed before on another bereaved mums page…I hope this is not your career….hateful trolling….there are people who can help you if needs be, just let me know & I can point you in the right direction…in the meantime I think you should step away from this blog before any more damaged gets caused…

  13. Whoa!! Some ppl on here have a personal axe to grind!!

    My experience concurs broadly with the majority. Meditation works more effectively than psychotropics. Its got waaaaaaaay better side effects. Guess what! Been in a relationship for 7-8 months And The Person Hasnt Hit Me Once! That wdnt have been possible before meditation. Guess what! Got a pretty cool part time job and went back to uni to do research! That wouldnt have been possible before meditation.

    I think attacking Suzanne personally detracts from your argument (because it becomes unclear– unless your argument is ‘She bad. Me good’). Suzannes story is a sample of N=1, but these forums are FILLED with ppl who have had personal experiences (yes anecdotal, n=1 experiences) that collaborate Suzannes conclusions about psychiatry.

    Instead of rambling on about who is responsible for Jakes death (cos I have to say the majority of random internet users including me see it as a tragedy *you know nothing about*) why dont you join the debate by adding your own personal experiences of psychiatry which is what we’re really talking about here.

  14. Indeed, her labeling others with the same kinds of words and phrases undermines her credibility as someone crusading against using such terms. Even though psychiatry seems like an impersonal target for criticism, it isn’t. Many fine, highly educated, sincere, caring people who are psychiatrists do their best to relieve the anguish of desperate people. It is unethical to condemn them all. It is dishonest too, in the case of Jake Snyder’s mother. Arranging which events of his life are included in sum to create a picture that psychiatry was responsible for his circu.stances and frame of mind at the end of his life as she has done is not an honest portrayal of what really happened by any means. It isn’t fair to Jake or psychiatry.

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