Hank and Susan Ashby received a call on Valentine’s Day 2010 that completely changed their lives… the call telling them that their 25-year old son, Jay Carter Ashby, had taken his own life.

Hank and Susan have wonderful memories of their son as a youngster with a big smile and easy laugh. He enjoyed sports, art, music, fishing and spending time with family. But like so many others, he gradually began to change, withdrawing from those who loved him, displaying mood swings and experiencing paranoia. In his early 20’s his symptoms became more pronounced and Jay was diagnosed with a schizoaffective disorder. He was seen by counselors and therapists, in and out of various public and private treatment facilities … but as time passed he became less aware of his need for treatment and medication and slipped further into his mental illness.

Hank and Susan tried desperately to find the help Jay needed but faced the barriers of the mental health system… not enough services to meet the need and lack of support in the legislature to fund the needed services. In the end, they lost their son because he gave up on life while waiting for an opening with the FACT team, a specialized program designed to help the persistently and severely mentally ill stay out of the jails and hospitals.

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.

They want you to know that mental illness is a disease and NOT a choice. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Mental illness can affect people of any age and in any family, regardless of race, gender, wealth or social status. Mental illness affects one in every four American families. Most of all, they want you to know there is HOPE.