I have known a few thousand individuals with serious mental illness, and their families. Sometimes I have met these families after the chaos of a near-death experience of a loved one. Living next to or with mental disorder is like living next to a fire… it can blaze out of control at any moment.
I have also stood with and tried to comfort families who have lost someone through suicide. I think there is no deeper pain and some families are never able to move forward, never able to feel a sense of true belonging in the world again, and never able to re-kindle a sense of purpose for the life that is still left for them. The loss of a family member through suicide is a tragedy that reverberates for years.
Hank and Susan Ashby lost their son Jay to suicide; overwhelmed by his mental illness, he leapt from a tall building. They, too, could have remained in a state of devastation: depression and anger distancing them from their pain. After a time of turmoil and soul-searching, they decided to stand up, not stay down. They moved forward with their lives, turning their loss into an initiative to help others. They created Who is Jay?
As explained on their website, "They grieved, learned to cope then decided to do something to prevent other families from going through the same heartbreak. They established the Jay’s Hope Fund through the Stewart-Marchman Act Foundation in order to raise funds for advocacy, education, and hope for individuals and families facing the challenges of mental illness."
This Foundation has become a source of hope, information, and understanding for other families. Hank and Susan are passionate about helping others to avoid the depths of pain they have experienced. Just this week Hank and Susan’s story of "Who is Jay?" has been published in the book I’Mpossible Project: Lemonade Stand - which is now available through Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, and other major retailers. Critics have described this book as a Chicken Soup for the Soul type book for the new millennium.
Author, actor and international speaker, Josh Rivedal - who has lived experience with mental illness and suicidality - curated and edited the book and also gives talks and runs workshops all across the nation through his organization, the I'mPossible Project. Hank & Susan Ashby’s story is one of twenty stories in this book.
The book is a quick and meaningful read and bound to lift your spirits, no matter how gloomy your day has been. I highly recommend it!