I’ll Fly Away

 In Fred's Blog

Today I went to the funeral of a young 29-year-old man who killed himself after nine years of fighting schizophrenia.  He had Christian music playing in his car and a book by his pastor on the seat next to him. Until he went away to college he was “normal” and showed absolutely no signs of mental illness. He was a kid.  Just a kid.

Schizophrenia is a disease that typically begins in early adulthood; between the ages of 15 and 25. Men tend to develop schizophrenia slightly earlier than women and whereas most males become ill between 16 and 25 years old, most females develop symptoms several years later. As well, the incidence in women is noticeably higher after age 30. The average age of onset is 18 in men and 25 in women. Signs often appear suddenly and without warning.

It was in college that the symptoms developed for the first time.  He called his father and asked him how long his Dad had been in the Mafia and how long the chip had been implanted in his son’s head.  After that, it was a lifetime of therapy for hallucinations, psychotic drugs with oftentimes terrifying side effects, extended stays in specialized facilities, family turmoil, isolation, and paranoia.  In the end it was a losing battle and he took his life alone in his car.  It didn’t matter to the family that their son had a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population or that a full 60 percent of young men like their son attempt suicide at least once and that 13 percent are successful.   But those who suffer are far more likely to harm themselves than anyone else.  News and entertainment media have linked schizophrenia and criminal violence when that is just not true.  Most people with schizophrenia harm themselves and not others.  But somehow, the statistics and the grim preparation are not comforting.  They do not make it easier to every day face the prospect of the phone call that comes far too often with the tragic news.

At the end of the service we were led in singing not a dirge but “I’ll Fly Away”.  Nothing could have been more appropriate.

Some glad morning when this life is o’er

I’ll fly away; 

To a home on God’s celestial shore 

I’ll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have gone 

I’ll fly away; 

Like a bird from prison bars has flown 

I’ll fly away.

He did..and so will we.


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