Six months or so after Janice found out she had breast cancer, my youngest boy began complaining of headaches and later other ailments. We did many tests and treatments including diet, conventional medicine, chiropractic, massage, and various kinds of energy work.

The next year he gradually stopped going to school and passed the California High School Proficiency Examination halfway through his sophomore year, getting out of high school at fifteen. For two years he holed up in his room playing video games while his mother died slowly down the hall.

Janice had been dead about a year last fall when my son told me that he was aware of channels that were giving him information as sentences and images. He believed that the channels came from people he knew and that they told the truth. Since the channels always promised him torture and doom, he was always fearful. That was his life.

At the end of October, to feel safe he signed himself into a Butte County facility for assessment and got out three days later with a prescription for Abilify, which also provided the intake worker’s clipboard. My son was just as fearful when he got out, just calmer.

He stopped taking the prescribed drug after a couple of weeks, and in a few days became convinced that he had a brain aneurysm, eventually persuading a neighbor to take him to an emergency room. By the time I found out and got to Enloe someone from Butte County Behavioral Health had claimed him under a 5150, the law that allows such an action when a mental patient is thought to be a danger to himself or others.

He soon got arrested for shoplifting and then alarmed some people in the neighborhood by standing around in their yards, and ended up back at the Puff. That time at the Psychiatric Health Facility (“the Puff”) he didn’t get out after the initial 72-hour period and stayed another fortnight until he was discharged with three prescriptions on New Year’s Day and directed to the Shalom Clinic for follow-up. God bless the Shalom Clinic.

He stayed on drugs a couple of weeks and then quit because he thought they hurt his brain, which could easily be the case.

He got out for a while and now my baby boy—born in the bed where I sleep and where his mother died—is again at the Puff. God bless the Puff, too.

I’d like to say my contact with the mental health system was satisfactory, but there is no mental health system. There are services here and there, but nothing that deserves to be called a system. More on this later.

Meanwhile my son sleeps in a hallway under 24-hour fluorescent lights, a type of sensory bombardment sometimes used as torture.

And God bless NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness.


  1. Susan Sakash says:

    Oh Anthony, I am so sorry. No, there isn’t a mental health system here which I’ve learned firsthand. There’s nothing I can really say (sorry) except that at least there should be consolation in the fact your son has you. Knowing you, that’s more than just consolation – it’s a gift and blessing I hope he is sometimes aware of. Peace and love, Susan

  2. roland lamarine says:

    My heart goes out to you. It is always so much harder when it’s our kids who have the problems, because we can’t help but think that it is somehow our fault. The fault may well be in our stars, however, and patience with these sort of problems is advisable. In my experience time is the best healer. I remember you did a column on Abilify and its common side effects and potential rare side effects which were indeed significant and worrisome. Our mental health system is truly non-existent but there are a good number of kind, caring, and highly competent individuals within the mental health care community here in Butte County. I hope you meet some of them and that your boy’s condition is stabilized providing him with an opportunity to heal and eventually prosper.

    All the best,


  3. Nancy M. Riley says:

    That’s just so very sad, Anthony.

  4. ken devol says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your son. And you’re right — there just is no mental health system in Chico, or the state, or the country. People think there must be, but there isn’t, not for people with serious mental illness. Sure, if you have good insurance, you can talk to someone about your various neurosis; but if you happen to turn up psychotic, and need on-going treatment? Not so much. i hope things turn out well for both of you. It’s scary as hell, I’m sure.

  5. connie brattan says:

    Wow. This is painful stuff. And you are right, the mental health system has huge holes. I know some very talented and caring counselors in Behavioral Health, but am aware that mostly, they only provide bandaids. My heart aches for your boy.

  6. The symptoms you describe may be due to toxin exposure. It is my guess you may have contaminated fill soil in your yard. the Farm Lab across from S and S can give you a list of what kinds of tests they do and where additional testing may be performed. I would be happy to assist you in any way i can. I have spent the last 9 years as an insurance inspector and investigator.

  7. Thom Smith says:

    Dear Anthony,

    After meeting Janice just once at the art gallery I quickly realized what a wonderful open person she was. Therefore her loss for you and for your son is great indeed. Individuals, like yourself and like your son, are not going to “get over” that loss and when you think of her it will be with love and with sorrow. Hopefully there will be no other ‘add ons’ such as guilt, shame, anger, or any other negative feelings. However, if there are such ‘add ons’ that is not bad. All of us handle problems differently, that is, in our own style.

    To help your son it is necessary to understand with an open mind what he is feeling without any prejudice. At some point he will open his heart and then your bond must be based on what is right. If he has made some mistake forgiveness will have a strong moral impression. A gentle approach to your son’s difficulty is the strongest medicine. The answers he needs will come from within himself and not from the outside world.

    Your friend,

    Thom Smith

  8. i get alot of help from the sharings at and there are live calls online. replays are
    available later for a while. i download them.
    love you, anthony,

  9. courageous says:

    You and your son are so courageous!! To face these things takes a great deal of courage, knowing that you both will come thru this. Your son seems to be a channel what he needs to understand is the state of his being is what brings thru the channel you receive. If he is in a healthy, happy, joyous place this brings thru a high channel, sadness, fear, and any negativity brings in a lower side. Advise him to do things he enjoys. If he can do fresh veggie juice this will help, contact us if you’d like to know how to make it. I believe Janice will help you from the other side. I did an event for NAMI and was so impressed how much love is out there, which is the best healing balm of all. May love and angels guide you all.

  10. Marybeth Lorbiecki Mataya says:

    Thank you for the amazing courage and bravery and love that it took to write this, and all of the other comments go to the heart of things. Drugs are seen as the answer to all ills, sadly, often only causing more. And clinical sterility and torture, yet what is there to do as another option? Where are there nurturing but firm and honest sources of help when parents can’t do anymore? Where is the community to raise the child and mental health support of that is not drug based, or at least uses that as the last resort or even a complimentary support when needed. Grief, spiritual loss, questions of meaninglessness and worth, desire to talk to the other world where his mother resides and anger at the other world taking her….all of these things are involved and can’t be handled by drugs.

    yet of course there are actual chemical mental strains and processes at work too….I have another friend my age struggling in different ways but also similar ones in a facility in the Twin Cities. But she is needing spiritual support and training and healing and she feels so alienated in the facility but where can she rest and be safe from the world to recover and get help outside of there?

    There are some good wilderness grief therapy programs that are good with youth. and adults Maybe something like that,. That’s what could help, and they often have scholarships:

    I hope something like this might help.
    I know similar style programs are having great positive effects with PTSD affected veterans and others.

  11. Elaine says:

    Hi Anthony, I am honored you are sending me your blogs…..I hope that you are feeling “some” peace regarding your baby boy…. I do know ( to some extent) what you are feeling and I am hopeful that time will bring healing…..Unfortunately it is a slow process…….Please continue to keep in touch and I send you and your boy my positive energy and love…..

  12. I don’t know you at all Anthony. So I cant accurately imagine how you must be feeling. Your well-written post stirs reactions I won’t share so your own may predominate, be felt and be processed.

    Do you believe the torture you describe at the end of your post is the same torture your son’s channels described?

  13. Joe’s angelic countenance has always made me feel that he has something special to show the world. I wait for the day that he feels healthy again. and shares that something with us.

  14. Teisha Hase says:

    I am so grateful to have gotten to meet you in NAMI. I know it is little solace to know others are in similar circumstances, but I do believe a shared burden is a lighter burden. As the wife of a wonderful man living with mental illness, I know how hard it is to see one’s loved one suffering, and feel betrayed by the lack of care and understanding from the medical community. As others have said, there are some individuals in the mental health field who are excellent, but I agree with your frustrating assessment that there is no system. I hope mental health issues will get the same deserved recognition and funding dollars as other physical ailments.

    I am sorry to hear of Janice’s passing and hold you and your son up in my prayers.


  15. Linda Furr says:

    You and your beautiful sons joined us at the Peace Vigil one cold, gray, damp New Year’s mid-day that happened to fall on a Saturday. The vibrancy of your sons, especially, made me know these were young people who were really concerned about the course our country has taken. Please hug your sons for us and tell them we’d love to see them again. And, please, go to the County Supervisor who represents your district and our Congressman, Doug LaMalfa, tell them what’s happened to your son who finds no real and necessary support within our system. Our representatives need to know what’s hurting us out here. Even if they mouth meaningless pieties of sympathy, they’ve got to be told what’s hurting us.

  16. kristin says:

    Hi anthony, I’ve worked with an awesome therapist who has experience with youth and all kinds of mental illness, including ptsd. Feel free to email if you’d like her contact or more info.

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