Give families the support they need – Jane’s Story

BC Schizophrenia Society Foundation Holiday Appeal 2023


Chris Sandy, a dedicated former BCSS board director, and a long-time donor, has always felt strongly about supporting the BC Schizophrenia Society. He has generously once again offered to match donations made before January 31st, up to a total of $10,000!

Here’s a heartfelt story from Jane Duval, shedding light on her son’s journey with schizophrenia, and how BCSS provided her family with support and resources.

“Compassion follows understanding. It is therefore incumbent on us to understand as best we can. The burden of disease will then become lighter for all.” – Dr. E. Fuller Torrey

I first heard about schizophrenia when my son Curtis was diagnosed in 1978. Things did not go well.

The initial onset of his illness was not handled properly. Because he was over 18, the family was completely shut out by the mental health system.

No one would even talk to us.

What followed were periods of on-again, off-again antipsychotic treatment and numerous involuntary hospitalizations. This was a pattern that would last for several years.

Despite ongoing desperate efforts by his family who loved him, my bright son—always so full of promise—eventually spiralled downward into dereliction. By 1986, he seemed lost to us, living on the streets of Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. For the next ten years, partly due to a hit-and-miss healthcare system, it often seemed we were just living one day at a time. We will never know what further damage was done to his brain and his body by the many injuries he sustained during this nightmare period.

Then, in the early 1990s, I was in Montreal and heard a CBC radio announcement that Dr. Fuller Torrey was coming to McGill University to talk about schizophrenia. So, I went along— expecting a limited audience filled with professionals. And maybe, just maybe, a few other forlorn, lost and confused family members like myself.

Imagine my surprise when I entered the McGill lecture amphitheatre to find it packed—with family members just like me! I broke down and wept. At last, I was hearing real information about schizophrenia. And about the fact that there was actually a Schizophrenia Society! This was the first step towards finding proper medical care for my son—and for eventually getting our family back.

Discovering the BC Schizophrenia Society was the beginning of a whole new reality.

Not only do other BCSS families and experienced staff provide much-needed emotional support, but they can also tell you who the good doctors are, how to access them and other necessary resources and benefits—plus save you time and energy by letting you know who not to bother wasting your time with.

Education, education, education. It is so essential. Our whole family—including my son—started to learn as much as possible about schizophrenia, especially about the importance of medications and the cognitive deficits that so often go unrecognized. It’s a very BIG learning curve. And nothing happened overnight, that’s for sure. But gradually, as we acquired as much information as possible, our lives were significantly improved.

Being involved in advocating for change and improved care for people with severe mental illness can be therapeutic for some of us. As one parent/board member said to me when I began working for the BC Schizophrenia Society back in 1995: “Don’t worry about anything. Whatever you can do, it will be helpful. Our ‘mental health’ system is so terrible, you can’t possibly make it worse. So just get in there and do something.”

Physicist Stephen Hawking famously noted that a lot can be done if you just don’t give up.

In fact, our mental health system has improved since the days when families were excluded from the patient’s circle of care. But as we all know, there’s still a long way to go. 

Sadly, my dear son passed away three years ago. But the last 25 years of his life were good, thanks mainly to all those who support the BC Schizophrenia Society, helping to provide the education and practical information so desperately needed. I am and will remain forever grateful.

Thank you, my friend, for being a supporter of the BC Schizophrenia Society. Your gift helps families provide care for their loved ones living with a serious mental illness.