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