The Power of One: Helping Others Find Hope With Visits and I-Pads

John with his grandmother before his death



By Bruce Hanson

 Twenty-one months ago, my son John passed away abruptly and unexpectedly at a local state mental hospital.  We had struggled with his schizophrenia for 20 years.  I’d love to tell you that, since the stress of dealing with his illness was relieved, I’ve been doing really well.
 That would be a lie.
Living that way for so long literally changed the landscape of my brain, and sadly, PTSD is my constant companion.  That said, there HAVE been a number of wonderful experiences since then.
One I want to share with you now.  I share in hopes that you might find your pilot light lit to go out and suggest to a mental health facility that you frequent that they try the same thing I have.

For the last four years of his life, John spent most of his time at the Colorado State Mental Hospital at Ft. Logan.  I visited two or three times a week during that period.  I was struck by the fact that a place that desperately needed a demeanor of hope was in fact a kind of purgatory.  People going in and out and back in on a regular basis.  The family visitation room could have been an interrogation room for the National Security Agency. Beyond Bleak.
I vowed to God and to myself to try to do something to change that.  To give my many friends there something cool in an uncool world.
They had VCR’s, CD and even cassette players, and in a world where APPS rule, they were still doing word searches on mimeographed sheets.  I wanted to give them iPads.
It’s not nearly enough, but on the first, second, and fifth Tuesdays, I go to Resource Night at the hospital.  I have collected seven iPads of varying ages.  Clients arrive in groups of 3 up to 7.  You can imagine they don’t enter with beaming smiles.  Wait for about 20 minutes.
 A young man from Eritrea, doesn’t speak English, finds music from his homeland and with YouTube and headphones, he is no longer at Ft Logan.  He hugged me when he left.  I know that’s a No No, but I don’t care.  An older lady  who once lived in London leaves the library to travel to her old neighborhood.  Two clients come in with two staff members each.  You know what that means.  They dare me to make them smile.  Twenty minutes later, after Subway Surfer and Candy Crush, they begrudgingly grin.
On the way out, they ask my name.  The stories could go on and on.  Singing, laughing, smiling.  I don’t need a car to go home.  I can just float home on the joy I feel.
All that is needed are a few iPads, some headphones, and someone who cares about these people I love.  Please consider trying to make this happen at your hospital or local mental health center.  It’s truly life changing. For Everyone.
Bruce Hanson
Westminster Colorado
(Mental illness never takes a vacation, but I do.  I will be publishing guest blogs and some of my most popular while I am away. I hope all of you are enjoying the final days of summer. Thanks, as always, for your support.   Pete Earley)


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.