Join Me In Fighting Schizophrenia

My little brother, Dave.

My family and I have been touched by schizophrenia through my dear brother, Dave. [You can read our story here.] Our heartbreaking journey inspired me to get involved in the B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation. Like Claudia, the mother who shared her story of her beloved son, Kent, I had to do something to fight the destruction of schizophrenia on the ones we love. [Read Claudia and Kent's Story.]

Like many of us, Claudia tried to find information about anti-psychotic medications and follow-up care so she could help her son get the best treatment possible and help him stay on his medications. British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) provides vital education and resources to anyone affected by schizophrenia free of charge, so that they are better able to advocate and care for their loved ones.

Families need education and support now. Yet at the same time, we need researchers to find tools for earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

Every gift matters. By giving to BCSS, you are helping families today and funding research that will build a healthier, better future for all.

Together, we can save lives. I will personally match all donations, up to a total of $10,000. This means you can double your gift… $50 becomes $100; $100 becomes $200. And to inspire you even more, I am extending my matching gift commitment to January 31.

Please make your life-saving gift today! 

                                            Chris Sandy
                                            Volunteer Board Director

P.S. Let me double the impact of your gift…Every donation counts!

Claudia and Kent's Battle with Schizophrenia

Dear Friends:

My name is Claudia Schalm. I live in Williams Lake, and want to share the story about my son, Kent. Kent was the oldest of my four children. We lived on a farm when the children were young and Kent was his father’s right-hand man. Kent was a responsible, hard worker. He could do anything from milking cows to running machinery, and everything in-between. You name it and Kent could do it. 

Kent in Grade 1
Kent was a tough, resilient and athletic guy. On the ski hill, he amazed us, racing straight down the hill at high speeds - never wiping out - always with a big grin, jacket wide open and his favourite Russian hat with the ear covers, flapping straight back in the wind.

Kent spent several summers planting trees, and was always the top tree planter. He made enough money to travel throughout Australia for six months.

Kent dreamed of becoming a police officer and when he was 21, Kent went off to Douglas College to study Criminology. But by the end of his second year, Kent was experiencing such significant symptoms of serious mental illness that he was no longer able to cope on his own. Kent returned home to Williams Lake to live with me and his sister, Cindy.

We were concerned and confused by Kent’s increasingly erratic and bizarre behaviour. The most disturbing was when he would laugh and chat with people that only he could see and hear. Despite our pleas, Kent refused to see a doctor and declined rapidly, becoming more and more withdrawn and silent.

Eventually, Kent was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But Kent never accepted his diagnosis, even up to the day he died. “There is nothing wrong with me,” he would announce, “I don’t need medication.”

We didn’t know it then, but this lack of awareness is actually a symptom called anosognosia.

Anosognosia, which may affect up to 50% of those with schizophrenia, means “lack of insight.” It is thought to be caused by a brain defect in the frontal lobe. Anosognosia is the genuine inability to recognize that the problem exists. Kent wasn’t just being difficult or refusing to face the truth, he truly believed that he didn’t have an illness. He could not see any reason why he would need to take medication.

BCSS Educators could have helped us understand and cope with this symptom.

Kent in junior high

For the rest of his life, there would be times when Kent would stop taking his medications. And then, when things got bad (and after much begging and pleading), he would reluctantly start them again.

Over the years, Kent had many jobs, but they always ended in dismissal because he simply could not stay on his meds. When Kent was not working, he would “make the rounds” as he called it. His hang-outs included McDonalds, A&W, Tim Hortons, Gustafson Chrysler, Heartland Toyota and The Jamboree. Kent would greet everyone with a huge smile and visit, while bumming coffee and cigarettes. The staff at these businesses were kind and friendly to Kent, helping him feel like he had a place to go, somewhere where he was wanted and appreciated. And I can never thank them enough. 

Kent loved people and had some really good friends. He was a kind and gentle soul with a big heart. Even though Kent accepted people as they were and judged no one, some people did not understand Kent, especially when he was not taking his medications.

Kent shared many years with Teena. And through Teena’s First Nations heritage and connections, Kent was embraced by a large community of friends and family. Their acceptance of him was complete and unconditional. Teena loved and cared for Kent, and we are deeply thankful that Kent and Teena found one another.

My family and I
(From left to right: Troy, Cindy, Wade, myself and Kent)
In December 2016, after 25 years of taking an older antipsychotic medication on and off, Kent was suddenly was unable to speak and had difficulty swallowing. This condition was directly related to the prolonged use of this mediation.

By January 2017, Kent was put on a newer atypical antipsychotic medication. But he received only two doses before developing blood clots. He went through three operations to remove the clots, but they just kept reappearing.

My loving, kind, and gentle son, Kent, died on Mach 4, 2017.

I know medication helped Kent, I am certainly not advising anyone to stop taking antipsychotic mediation. But we as families desperately need ongoing education about the disease and medications so we can support the health and well-being of our loved ones. And this is where BCSS could have made such a tremendous difference in our lives. BCSS could have helped us understand Kent’s anosognosia. With the help of a BCSS Educator, we might have been able to find other ways… maybe better ways…to help Kent stay on his medication. Through BCSS, I could have learned about other medications and advocated for ongoing assessments, second opinions and other options.

If only we had discovered B.C. Schizophrenia Society sooner.

Finally, in our time of grief, we found BCSS and BCSS is supporting us and connecting us with other families who have experienced similar losses.

Parents should never have to bury their children.

I feel the keen pain of Kent’s absence each and every day. And I cannot continue to sit by while schizophrenia devastates families, leaving far too many of us feeling helpless and in despair.

A family lineup during one of our annual family trips to the lake. Kent is fourth from the left.

But there is something each of us can all do. Chris Sandy, who shared his story about his little brother Dave, has once again generously offered to match all donations to this campaign – dollar for dollar – up to a total of $10,000, until January 31, 2019.

Double your gift today!

Imagine your gift… and its impact… being doubled. Your donation of $50 will become $100; your donation of $100 will become $200!

Your generosity will help give more families the information and support they need when they need it. Your donations will also fund essential research, right here in B.C., with the hope that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren may not have to struggle with schizophrenia as we have.

Please join me by giving to B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation today!

Claudia Schalm

P.S. Thanks to the generosity of Chris Sandy, donations received by December 31, 2018 will receive a 2018 tax receipt. Every gift counts. Please make your gift today and double your impact! [Read the story of Chris Sandy's brother, Dave.]

The Story of Dave Sandy

My name is Chris Sandy and I recently joined the Board of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society Foundation (BCSSF) because it does something that no other government agency or organization does.  It gives people “a reason to hope…the means to cope.”

We all know someone whose life has been affected by mental illness. One in 100 British Columbians are diagnosed with schizophrenia, but so many more live with it… their parents, brothers, sisters and other family members... all struggling to understand, support and be there for their loved ones. 
BCSSF programs and research save and transform lives and this is only possible because of the generosity of donors like us.  And I make my donations in memory of my little brother, Dave Sandy.

Dave was a happy kid, upbeat, sincere, and well-liked by everyone at our school in Peterborough, Ontario.  He was happiest when playing sports, and I was always impressed with my little brother’s athletic ability.  We would play touch football together and he would have a huge smile on his face.  Dave could motivate our whole team to get a touchdown, time after time.

When Dave was in his late teens, our family started to notice a change in his behaviour. He became distant and paranoid.  He would rarely leave the house and sometimes he’d say and do strange things that didn’t make sense.  It was a confusing and difficult time for all of us; there was a lot of tension and guilt.  We kept wondering which one of us caused Dave to suddenly behave this way.

Now we know nobody was to blame; Dave was in early psychosis.  

Years later, Dave was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia.  As you likely know, what happened after that wasn’t pretty.  There were many sleepless nights. Dave suffered from the side effects from either too much or not enough antipsychotic medication. 

I most remember our first trip to the hospital to admit Dave.  My dad, brother and I were walking with Dave from the Emergency Room to the Psychiatric Ward.  From a thousand games of touch football with my little brother, I knew when he was getting ready to run.  Sure enough, as soon as we were outside, Dave took off.  As I was running after him, all I really wanted to do was run with him – to run as fast and far away as we could to get away from schizophrenia. 

Whenever Dave was home from the hospital, my mother took care of him.  Mom was an extraordinary and patient caregiver and without her, Dave would have been institutionalized.  There were no programs that we knew of in those in those days to assist families.  Mom learned as much as she could, but there was no one she could turn to for knowledge and support.

Over the years, Dave would improve for short periods of time, only to slide back into psychosis again.  This cycle was very hard on Dave, on my mom, and on all of us.  We always kept hoping that there would be a new treatment or medication, anything that would give Dave a chance to live his life.

When he was 46, Dave suddenly became very depressed and within a week, after struggling with schizophrenia for nearly 30 years, Dave took his life. Dave’s passing has left a huge, gaping hole in our family that can never be filled. 

It’s been six, long years since Dave has died, after decades of battling with schizophrenia – I wish he was here today.  I wish I could spend more time with him.  He was a great guy.

Today, I have a teenage son and sometimes when I look at him, I can’t help but see my 17 year old brother.  My wife points out that, without realizing it, I sometimes call my son ‘Dave’– a young man with his whole life ahead of him and the potential to do great things.  I’m often filled with fear that my son’s bright future will be taken away and I will lose yet another loved one to schizophrenia.

This is why I am doing all I can to make sure that other people do not lose their children, brothers, sisters or other family members to this devastating disease.  I must protect my son, and even my grandchildren, from the torment that Dave endured.  By volunteering and donating to B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation, I know that I am saving lives.  

Families and their ill loved ones are waiting far too long for programs and services they desperately need.  And we know that families in crisis do not have time to wait.  At the same time, researchers are seeking to improve early diagnosis, investigate impacts on the brain and find better treatments.   

Perhaps, if there had been an organization like B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation in Peterborough, Ontario when Dave and I were growing up, we might still be playing football today…and doing so with our sons.


Chris Sandy
Volunteer Board Director

BCSS Foundation Board Needs You!

Do you have a background in finance, business, marketing, communications or fundraising? Are you interested in being part of a team where passion, energy and skills come together to create positive change in the world? If you answered yes, consider applying to serve on the board of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation.
B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation is looking for inspired volunteers to join our board and help the Foundation raise funds for the B.C. Schizophrenia Society.  
Help families in crisis; help fund leading-edge mental health research. Bring your skills to the table and help us meet the challenge today.
To join our list of candidates or for more information, please contact our nomination committee chair, Jeff Bagshaw at

Spencer's Story

Dear Friends,
Last year, Chris shared his story that is sadly very similar to mine… of a brother lost. This year, he has asked me to share my story of how schizophrenia doesn’t fight fair.

My name is Trevor Mills. I am a teacher by day, and a hip-hop artist by night. Inspired by my big brother, Spencer, and his journey, I performed at B.C. Schizophrenia Society’s Re-Mind, an event marking National Schizophrenia and Psychosis Awareness Day. 
Spencer (age 4) in preschool.
As kids, Spencer and I were nearly inseparable. Even though he was only two years older than me, I thought Spencer was the coolest, smartest, strongest person in the world. We shared the same toys, comic books, clothes, friends – we even shared the same room. 
From a young age, we liked to see ourselves as underdogs, fighting to succeed in life. We both became involved in sports. I excelled at football and wrestling, while Spencer’s passions were boxing and kick-boxing.

We were attracted to hip-hop’s music and culture. Spencer was moved by the stories heard through hip-hop, of youth struggling in the city; he saw them like us – warriors, fighting against all odds to succeed in life. As I progressed as a hip-hop artist, Spencer attended every one of my shows, offering encouragement and support. He was my biggest fan.

College and university were stressful for us both, but we grew even closer as we continued to fight and bolster each other to succeed. We spent our Friday nights at the Langara College library – after visiting the 7-11 first, of course – studying until the library closed.

Spencer worked very hard to complete a challenging program in international trade at BCIT and landed a job in a logistics department of a shipping and receiving company. Everything was going well; Spencer was getting positive feedback and enjoying his work.

Two "Sharp-Dressed" Guys!
But then things began to change. We would not hear from Spencer for long periods of time, and when he did talk to us, he would mention bizarre theories about people we knew. Eventually, Spencer admitted he had lost his job. Although he insisted he was fine, we knew he wasn’t. Spencer started becoming increasingly paranoid, withdrawn and suspicious.

Over the next few years, Spencer fought to stay healthy and focused. And there were times when he seemed to be winning the battle. Spencer would land a temporary job and seem to be doing better – but then psychosis would hit and he would have to start all over again. And just like when he boxed, Spencer would dust himself off, and stand up, ready to fight again. Even though he was weaker and had a little less to fight with after each round, he never gave up.

Schizophrenia landed a low blow when I became the target of my brother’s paranoia, and things became much more difficult. All of us were confused and did not know what to do. Soon, Spencer started to live at home again, off and on, and because of his paranoia, I felt I needed to stay away.

Nobody was to blame. 
Spencer was going through psychosis.

One afternoon my mother phoned and asked me to come over right away. When I arrived, I found my brother was speaking incoherently as he ripped open the pillows in his room, searching for cameras. I took one look and knew it was time to act.

After I persuaded Spencer to go out for a walk, I whispered to Mom to call 911 and ask for Car 87, a special team that pairs a police officer with a mental health worker. Despite my feelings of betrayal and guilt, I led my brother out of the house for some fresh air, knowing that professionals were waiting. The Car 87 team engaged Spencer in a dignified and caring way and eventually brought him to the hospital.

At first, we felt relieved, thinking that Spencer was finally getting the help he needed. We saw him every day, brought him his favourite foods, and were happy that he seemed to be calmer and responding well to treatment. But after 10 days, Spencer was discharged without us knowing and he disappeared. We were angry and discouraged, and did not know where to go and what we could do.

Over the next few years, we watched helplessly as Spencer continued to battle the voices and delusions. Too proud to ask for money or accept handouts, Spencer moved from one temporary construction job to the next. Once, he was dismissed for talking out loud to himself. Most of the time, he was sick, scared, and desperately needed help.

In the summer of 2013, two years after he was discharged from the hospital and three weeks after his 34th birthday, my brother, my hero, the man who fought so valiantly to succeed in life – Spencer John Mills – took his life.

After his suicide, we were completely lost. Although we found a few organizations dedicated to schizophrenia, they were focused entirely on the patient, and offered no support for families. We didn’t know how to fight in a system we did not understand… a system that B.C. Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) helps families navigate every day.

BCSS is one of the only organizations in B.C. dedicated to providing families with resources so they can care for their children, brothers, sisters, or other family members. BCSS Regional Educators help hundreds of families across the province each year. BCSS support groups, programs, and courses like Strengthening Families Together would have given our family what we needed to help Spencer.

If only we had discovered B.C. Schizophrenia Society sooner.

BCSS connected us with families who had survived similar tragedies, and we bonded immediately. BCSS not just supported us through our grief, but it also helped us rebuild our lives and find new purpose. Knowing Spencer would have wanted me to continue with my music, I released Evidence of a Struggle, an album raising awareness of mental illness and its effects on families. This album has helped adults and kids who are waging their own wars with mental illness to reach out and seek help. Spencer would be proud to see me use my passion to connect and help others.

But that’s just not enough. 

My brother meant the world to me.

Spencer posing with his signature smile!
Losing him was the hardest thing I have ever experienced, and there is a hole in our family that will be forever empty.

Schizophrenia took my brother from me. This disease destroyed my bright, hardworking, fun, and caring brother whose life was full of promise. It hurt everyone in our family as we watched Spencer fight round after round.

Although I was not able to save my brother, together we can make a difference for thousands of others in B.C.
Last year, Chris matched every gift that was made over the holiday season. And after hearing about the story of my brother, he has generously agreed to do so again this year, up to a total of $10,000.
Double your gift today!

By giving today, you will fund more research and help more families. Your gift of $50 will become $100; your donation of $100 will become $200!

In addition to giving families the information and support they need when they need it, donations also fund essential research in schizophrenia and psychosis, based here in B.C., which will lead to better treatment choices and better care.

Please join me in the fight against schizophrenia by giving to B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation today!


Trevor Mills

P.S. Remember that donations received by December 31st will receive a 2017 tax receipt. Every gift counts. Please make your gift today and double your impact!

Planning Your Future Gifts and For Your Family And Others

If you're wondering why you should attend the next Wills & Trusts Seminar, especially if you've attended one in the past, wonder no more.

B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation (BCSSF) sat down with John Pin, Senior Manager from Solus Trust Company Ltd., to ask him about what people will learn from these Wills & Trusts Seminars.

     BCSSF:  Why should people attend a Wills & Trusts Seminar?
     John Pin (JP): When facing death, we sometimes begin to think about the future of the people and organizations we care about the most. If you want to ensure your wishes are carried out, you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive which of your assets, what you want them to receive and when they are to receive it. You will, of course, want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees and court costs. That is estate planning—making a plan in advance and naming the people or organizations you want to receive the things you own after you die.
     However, good estate planning is much more than that, it should include:
  • Instructions for passing your values (religion, education, hard work, etc.), in addition to your valuables
  • Instructions for your care, if you become disabled before you die.
  • The name of a guardian and trustee for children under the age of 19.
  • Provisions for family members with disabilities, without disrupting government benefits.
  • Provisions for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or those who may need future protection from creditors or divorce. 
  • Life insurance for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
     Good estate planning will also minimize taxes, court costs and unnecessary legal fees. What you need to remember is that it should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.
     We will outline some of the steps and considerations you would need to consider for a workable estate plan. 
BCSSF: Why should people learn about trusts?
JP: Many adults diagnosed with a disability or mental illness like schizophrenia are entitled to income and health benefits administered by the Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry requires that monetary gifts and assets received by those getting these benefits need to be reported. However, if the gift or asset exceeds a particular amount, it may impact the benefits that the recipient receives monthly from the Ministry. If you plan to leave an inheritance for a loved one who is receiving these income and health benefit, it will be considered a gift and if it’s significant, the recipient could be cut off from these benefits completely.
     However, it is possible to set up certain types of trusts without affecting a person’s ability to receive these benefits.
     We will cover the characteristics of a discretionary testamentary trust and highlight its advantages.
     Some of these characteristics and advantages include:
  • The beneficiary NEVER receives the inheritance directly.
  • The funds never belong to the beneficiary.
  • An unlimited amount of money can be held.
  • A trustee can make discretionary payments on behalf of the beneficiary within the limitations set out by the Ministry and your beneficiary will still receive their benefits.
  • If a beneficiary qualifies for disability credit, the trust is subject to lower marginal tax rates.
  • A fully discretionary trust cannot be claimed by creditors for debts incurred by the beneficiary, without the trustee agreeing to the payment.
  • It protects against “undesirable” persons influencing the beneficiary to waste the funds or give money/assets away.
  • The trust is protected even through personal bankruptcy of the beneficiary.
BCSSF: If people have attended a previous seminar, why should they attend this one?
JP: There have been many recent changes to the rules concerning qualifying payments from a trust to a beneficiary as it relates to income benefits and federal income tax changes to the taxation of trusts. We will cover these changes and more at the seminar.
     At every seminar, attendees learn something new. They are also able to bring any of their own questions to the seminar and ask them at the end. 
This is an invaluable resource that leaves people much better prepared for their twilight years. By making the plans now about how to protect your loved one, you can also plan to include gifts for organizations like B.C. Schizophrenia Society Foundation into the future.

If you're interested in attending the upcoming Wills & Trust Seminar in Surrey on Thursday, October 26 at 6:00 pm, call Cynthia at 604-270-7841 or email