Video by Daniel Bergin, words penned by Jon Van Amber

One of the definitions of courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. As a witness to my father’s mental illness, I’ve come to know how courageous he is, as well as others who silently suffer. Before he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, my father James struggled with mental illness for nearly four decades by obsessively writing, and by relying on family and friends for support.

Family members are heroic, but are often too close to know what to do. In my father’s case, we thought his malady was just a “writer’s temperament.” We were unable to separate his illness from “Dad.” Psychiatric help finally shed light on the reason behind the confusion and unmanageability. We are truly humbled his life was spared and our family survived.

I will always be grateful to my father’s doctor, Dr. Alan Serposs, at the Minneapolis V.A. Hospital, and to friends, family and support organizations for their help and love.

Stories like these are about hope, and I believe hope inspires courage in all of us.


Mental health issues plague people in all walks of life. Discover how “Mental Health Concerns Are on the Rise in Farm Country.”

Read up on how one man’s struggle to overcome an opioid addiction led to a personal mission to help others in “How One Man Held on to Hope to Overcome an Opioid Addiction.”

Learn how internalizing the traumas of their refugee experiences can impact the health and well-being of Somali women in “Hidden Wounds: Somali Women’s Health.”

This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.