"My son Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was a 20-year-old art student in Brighton in 2002. He had tried to swim across the estuary at Newhaven that February and was rescued from the freezing water by fishermen and taken to hospital, unconscious and suffering from hypothermia.
Henry was sectioned a year later and spent the next eight years confined in mental hospitals in the grip of a psychosis that ebbed and flowed but from which he could not escape. He disappeared into a mental world where no barrier existed between dreams, nightmares and reality and the voices of trees and bushes spoke to him, became his friends and told him what to do. He hated being confined in hospital but could scarcely have survived outside it as he wandered through east Kent, sometimes walking naked along railway tracks or swimming lakes and rivers in mid-winter.
He ran away from hospitals some 30 times, but his very inability to look after himself meant that he usually, though not invariably, was found within a few days. It seemed all too likely to my wife Jan and myself that he would not live long and we were in dread of a final call from the police saying that it was all over. In his more rational moments, Henry agreed with this, repeatedly saying: “I do not think I am going to live past 30.”