Hope, and the writings of Peggy Symons
Hope, and the writings of Peggy Symons
"The weight of hopelessness is the heaviest burden of mental illness.
As this message  is written ...Hope will pick up its passengers in this website and deliver them on the other side of despair."
Peggy J. Symons

A Place To Discover Hope






Welcome To The Website of Hope


My name is Peggy Symons.


I am a writer, a daughter, an aunt, and a sister to seven siblings.

I am a friend to many and I am proud to be called a friend of many. But most importantly, for this website, I am an advocate for the understanding of mental illnesses. I am an individual who has lived with a major mental illness most of my life and struggled to find meaning and order in its cyclone of symptoms.

I would not have survived the neurobiological destruction of this powerful disorder of the brain without a village of assistance. Family, friends, expert and attentive professionals and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando have surrounded me with encompassing help and hope. I am also grateful to my faithful friend Tandy C. Chiles for the advice and encouragement that has kept me grounded for twenty years. Without the lantern of hope that she carries I would have lost my way entirely.

As I travel through this life I see so many others who have gifts to bring to the table of life, although mental illness would try to hide or bury these gifts.

All of us need a village of assistance. Daily vigilance, medication, freedom from stress and the safe harbor of my family and friends have helped kindle the message of hope I carry and given me the courage to share the light of my journey.

As for me and many others this illness doesn’t go away – it remains encrypted in biological code that is not yet completely understood. But hope is the resting place where the darkness of mental illness gives way to light.

My hope is to give you a life-line; for yourself, a family member or a friend that suffers from often-misunderstood illnesses that will touch the lives of one in five people.

My desire in creating this website is to bring hope to the hopeless, light to those in darkness, and beauty to those who cannot yet see the hope of God's rainbow.

I invite you to join me in this unending journey with hope and her sisters, light and beauty. This is the inspiration for my website.






Letter from Rosalynn Carter

This is a letter I received from Rosalynn Carter in 2007. I sent her some articles I had written.
Advocacy was working hard to secure mental health parity to make insurance companies cover mental illnesses at the same rate as any other illnesses. She joined the fight with a great deal of weight. She had a serious battle with depression herself.She knew we needed her.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Love Peggy


23 March 2007 



Dear Peggy, 


Thank you for your letter and the copies of the two articles you have written. I appreciate knowing how active you have been in the fight against the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.


Like you, I am watching closely the progress of Senate Bill 558, The Mental Health Parity Act of 2007. The staff of The Carter Center Mental Health Program has been working directly with staff in Representative Patrick Kennedy's office monitoring the progress of parity legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. We are seeking their advice on how best I might help and then will act accordingly. 


I am pleased to know we have such eloquent advocates like you helping to improve the lives of Americans who have mental illnesses. 


With best wishes, 


Rosalynn Carter



In 2022 ,the extraordinary cost of medications is spiraling out of reach for many people.
Psychiatric medications are particularly expensive.Without insurance,Medicare or Medicaid they are unaffordable. Patient Assistance programs are income limited.I found this article in the July issue of AARP magazine.It's impressive and well considered. AARP openned my eyes as far as the leverage of ordinary citizens to push for new policies in 2022.Its worth reading.Drug prices are unsustainable.
Bill Allows Medicare Prescription Drug Negotiations

I love this song by Michael W. Smith. It’s titled Grace. I listen to it often and think of my precious mother.


She raised eight children by herself while she worked full time.

I see her hardships in Grace. I see her walking into the driving rain with her head bent forward. She just kept going. She never quit or walked away because she loved her children. And just like the song her beauty grew in the driving rain.

One of the most important gifts Mom left us is Grace. It would see us through the driving rain that would come into our own lives.


Thank you, Mom, with all our love, your children.

Please click on the Video to hear a song called.........


Grace by Michael W Smith 










Orlando Sentinel

Politics has nation at war with itself

 November 4, 2022 at 4:21 pm

The ongoing news coverage of the fractious standoff between left and right politics comes with red flags and a warning.

It seems that every debate or difference of opinion erupts into divisive hostility. Words become weapons, any hope of unity clashes with chaos and no one wins. The honor of engaging in civil disagreement has collapsed into a nation at war with itself.

Even the future appears to be hopelessly split in the passions of conflict. It is important to see where we are going. Civility flies at half-staff on the road to lost honor.

Peggy J. Symons DeLand



In 2022 ,the extraordinary cost of medications is spiraling out of reach for many people.
Psychiatric medications are particularly expensive.Without insurance,Medicare or Medicaid they are unaffordable. Patient Assistance programs are income limited.I found this article in the July issue of AARP magazine.It's impressive and well considered. AARP openned my eyes as far as the leverage of ordinary citizens to push for new policies in 2022.Its worth reading.Drug prices are unsustainable.
Bill Allows Medicare Prescription Drug Negotiations

One Family's Journey into Hope



This is the story of my family and I when we joined schizophrenia research at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

I lived with a mental illness most of my life. Along the way I met fiercely loving and loyal families, mostly through the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando, who stagger under the great weight of mental illness.

I will always take comfort knowing my family and I contributed so much valuable information to schizophrenia research it is gathering momentum even to this day.

Eventually, other families will never have to bear the burdens of this illness.



The Genetic Study of Schizophrenia;
National Institute of Mental Health



It has been several years since my family
and I found a description of the Genetic Study of Schizophrenia in the  “Advocate”, a quarterly publication of National Alliance on Mental Illness.


This research is an ongoing study at the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland.


Researchers are looking very closely at the genetic and non- genetic factors that raise the risks for schizophrenia.


Of eight siblings, I am the only one with a schizophrenic disorder.


Our family applied to this study knowing that this research is generating information giving neuroscience the keys that
are beginning to break into the complex biological codes of


At the time, my brother’s business interest was providing computer technologies to researchers studying the genetic abnormalities within the full and complex human genome.


He recognized the neuro-imaging and genetic technologies as the most advanced tools of neuroscience in the world.


We embraced the opportunity to benefit others with this disorder.


This particular study, one of several, compared the genetic differences between siblings who are affected by schizophrenia and those who aren’t.


It was an opportunity for seven siblings to add an unusual wealth of information to research.


We were accepted into the study and welcomed as respected and valued partners in this pioneering research.


The National Institute of Mental Health arranged our flight schedules, hotel bookings, and testing days to maximize the rare time we had to spend together.


The study was a fast moving two days of detailed magnetic resonance imaging, interviews, and neuropsychological testing.


Other than a routine blood draw, there was no invasive testing.


For our family, the long road to the genetic
study of schizophrenia began almost three decades before.


I was hospitalized in 1975 after a three year slide into a psychotic


I fell into the hands of a psychiatrist who psychoanalyzed my hallucinations and assessed my entire family as“schiziophrenigenic”


Despite the fact that neurobiological anarchy was sweeping through my brain like a forest fire, realitybegan to dawn
on me by 1979: I had seven brothers and sisters and none of them were like me.


They were all working, going to school, or were in college.


We were of the same parents, and we were all raised by a courageous and hard-working single mother who loved us all.


I was different from early in life.


As a young adult, hallucinations and depression were taking over my entire life.


None of my brothers and sisters had ever
been brought to their knees by visions and voices and depression that paralyzed even my will to live.


I knew my family was not doing this to me; there was something wrong with my brain.


I found another psychiatrist who remained with me for twenty-five years as a constant source of expertise and encouragement.


Looking back from 2009, I call the primitive and hopeless psychiatry of the 1970s the “dungeons of the day.”


Old Freudian ideas that twisted the psychiatry of schizophrenia away from the brain onto blaming families were still widely held.


It was a dated era still spun with mythically monstrous mothers named and blamed as “schiziophrenigenic mothers”


The psychoanalytic psychiatry of the 1970s perpetuated the influence of a century of Freudian ghosts that linger to this day as
the deep shroud of shame, guilt, and misunderstanding that continues to obscure the neurobiological legitimacy of this illness.


Before we left the NIMH, I talked to the lead investigator of the study.


I told him what it was like for me coming from the “dungeons of the day” 28 years ago to be working with the NIMH as a
full and respected partner in research that I never thought would happen in my lifetime.


At the time, I was told that five or six genes increasing the risk for schizophrenia had been discovered.


There are now many more genes suspected to have a role in this illness.


The empowering character of this progress is a
clear and bright light of new hope and promise moving at light speed in the right direction.


It is a privilege to be part of this revolution in neuroscience.


I believe that with more study volunteers
like my family and I, the complex puzzles and codes of mental illnesses will be mapped out and solved in our lifetimes.


Looking back at the NIMH study, I can see my brothers and sisters in the full light of their loyalty and love.


They were all indicted as “schiziophrenigenic” 34 years ago, but when this illness threatened to take me
away from them, they rose to the challenge and held out their hands to me in the moments that I otherwise would have drowned.


Six of them were younger than I was when
this illness swept out of hell, yet they have travelled this distance with me unafraid.


They have made my life richer, funnier, and filled to overflowing as a sister, an aunt and a friend.


Without them, it would have been a dark and difficult journey.


With them, we walked this 34 year road out of darkness into daybreak.



Peggy J. Symons

National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Orlando


Peggy J. Symons  © Copyright 


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR    Orlando Sentinel


Mental-illness stigma still prevalent | Letters

June 03, 2022 at 1:30 pm

The appalling school shooting in Texas has left us staggering backward and demanding answers to the upsurge in violence overtaking the nation.

Unfortunately, the words “mental illness” were spoken practically in the first breath of breaking news, reinforcing the chronic slippage of mental illness into violence as if they were cause and effect.

Research has repeatedly confirmed that individuals with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

In fact, many are dying of neglect, suicide and life-limiting medical conditions.

Their hidden suffering is completely covered over with the misplaced perception they are violent, not vulnerable.

Until there is a revolution in the way we view mental illnesses, we cannot escape the slippery slope where prejudice overtakes truth and questions about the real causes of violence fall away unanswered and without insight.

Peggy J. Symons DeLand



In 2022 ,the extraordinary cost of medications is spiraling out of reach for many people.
Psychiatric medications are particularly expensive.Without insurance,Medicare or Medicaid they are unaffordable. Patient Assistance programs are income limited.I found this article in the July issue of AARP magazine.It's impressive and well considered. AARP openned my eyes as far as the leverage of ordinary citizens to push for new policies in 2022.Its worth reading.Drug prices are unsustainable.
Bill Allows Medicare Prescription Drug Negotiations

 In Memory of My Friend, Sister Dorothy Dawes 1934-2015


I met Sister Dottie around 1974, when I was a student at a community college in Orlando. She was a Catholic Nun assigned to the school as a campus minister at the same time I was spiraling into a serious mental illness.

Sister Dottie took me under her wings (yes, angel wings) and eventually invited me to live with her at the Newman Center for Campus Ministry where she also taught a scripture class.

She was Catholic but had a wide ecumenical faith. She never turned away from anyone or discounted them because they were of another faith or even no faith at all.

She held up the lantern of her own faith and love when all I could see was despair. She told me over and over “choose life”. And then she said something that changed the course of my life. She said you are gifted. Sister Dottie believed in me.

Through her unending and unconditional love, I could see the Lord had never forsaken me even when I had no faith at all. He loved me so much He sent one of his finest servants to help me.

I wrote to Sister Dottie for years after she returned to New Orleans. She always wrote back. One day a package from New Orleans arrived at my front door. I was so surprised to find that Sister Dottie saved every card and letter I sent over the years.

In faith, she knew someday they would be a journal of a very difficult journey from the darkness of mental illness into the light of hope.

Sister Dottie understood the gospel of peace and she lived it. Her unfailing pursuit of justice for the “least of the brethren of Jesus Christ” had a profound impact on me. In time, her mission became the center of my life's work.

There is no way to measure the gift Sister Dottie was in my life. The best I can do is to take her precious Light and pass it on.




Advertising Hope   Oct. 30, 2020


A couple of weeks ago I was briefly watching TV and an interesting advertisement popped up.

It was an ad for a new antipsychotic medicine directly marketed to people living with schizophrenia.

The ad portrayed people with this illness engaged in normal, everyday activities, as it should.

After decades of plowing through stigma, stereotypes and discrimination who would ever think any company would consider people with schizophrenia an attractive market?

In the not too distant past, TV ads aimed at attracting the business of people with schizophrenia would slam the door on the product and the advertiser.

The retail cost of the medicine is $ 1,470.26 for 30 pills which is nearly $50 a pill. But at least the ad is a new vote of legitimacy for schizophrenia.




Red Flags Covid-19 and Schizophrenia


Research published in the January, 2021 Journal of American Medicine found that after age, schizophrenia is the second highest risk factor for death and severe illness from Covid-19.


People with this disorder are contracting Covid-19 at a rate10 times higher than the general population and dying at a rate 3 times higher than other infected individuals Covid-19.  


The article cited vulnerability to Covid-19 caused by immune system dysregulation inherent to schizophrenia.

Researchers carefully excluded other life limiting factors associated with schizophrenia, including general poor health. The specific susceptibility to death and severe illness may be a clue to the nature of Covid as well as schizophrenia.


Other mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression do not carry similar risks.

The deadly connection between Covid-19 and schizophrenia may seem an obscure issue but coronavirus infections are still occurring across Florida and the nation.


This research could be a window into a tidal wave of very specific and tragic loss of life.


People with schizophrenia rarely enter health care settings waving their own red flags.


The most important way to mitigate this death toll is to see it.

This may be a major public health issue.



Here is the link to the research article:










Hallucinations and delusions are larger than life.


They are filled with characters, harlequins and images of hell.


What most people don’t know is that the worst of psychotic symptoms tend to rise and retreat.


But even hallucinations and delusions with all their horror and fury do not take a greater toll on our lives than what psychiatrists call the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.


This is where this illness lays its most difficult burdens.

Negative symptoms are caused by a paralyzing breakdown of the biochemistry of the brain.


It’s like having a transmission that is broken inside and the gears won’t work.

Life loses all forward traction.


Days and dates lose distinction and the colors of life fade and blur into chronic shades of grey.


All emotion, will and hope for the future blends into the endless grey.


Nothing matters and nothing moves under the weight of this void.

For years no one understood why I did not move much, date, go out with friends or pursue a career path.


I simply couldn’t move.


The major showdown of the day was getting into the shower.

Sometimes the shower won and sometimes it didn’t.

Washing my hair would go by the wayside for weeks.

I often slept with my shoes on so I wouldn’t have to put them back on in the morning.


Before a new antipsychotic medicine became available to me in 1998, 25 years of my life folded and collapsed under the ungodly weight of this silent wasteland.


This is the endless place where schizophrenia, this great thief of the night, silences those whose lives it steals.



Without expert psychiatric care and the new generation of antipsychotic drugs life stops here for many people.


Peggy J. Symons          Copyright



The Call to Conscience



The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Who are we?


We are the nation’s voice on mental illness. We are a grassroots, nonprofit organization primarily run by volunteers. We have chapters in all 50 states and now many other countries.


We know the brain disorders that cause mental illnesses. Most of us live with them or have family members who do. Much of our know-how is drawn from our own life experiences and most of the donations we receive go directly into free services.


We have long set our sights on dismantling the myths of mental illness that generate fear, stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the disorders of the brain that cause mental illnesses. Some of these perceptions are still shrouded in the foggy illusions of 19th-century.


Mental illnesses are neurobiological in nature, yet they continue to be freely associated with the mistaken idea that severe and persistent mental illnesses are caused by childhood trauma or inflicted by dysfunctional families.

Shame, blame and guilt, the unseen accusers of weary families have spawned a trail of tears for decades. Families have not been supported or educated, instead, blamed and accused. Unable to raise their heads or voices, much of their suffering has been unseen and unheard.


The intrusion of “at fault” authority into the realms of the brain has been deep and damaging; it flat-lined the psychiatry of the brain for decades.


Unfortunately, the myths that surround mental illness are still snapping at the feet of families.


Come with us, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and we will take you into the shadows and margins of America where people with severe and persistent mental illnesses really live; where bewildered families bearing the burdens of mental illnesses have no idea what to do or where to find effective help.


This Is Real World America.


Cost-effective community care and hospital beds have been sliced from underneath the most profoundly ill as states slashed mental health funding.

Hundreds of thousands of people living with mental illnesses are wandering the streets, penniless, severely ill and untreated, or worse, jailed far from the reach of any psychiatric care at all.


In shocking evidence of systemic discrimination people with these disorders of the brain are being jailed wherever they collide with conscience. Usually arrested for relatively minor offenses that are more often symptoms of mental illness than criminal intent; they can’t work the ropes of release so they circle and spin in useless and costly orbits through criminal justice systems already breaking under the costs of criminal justice.

Neither judges nor jailers want them there but there is seemingly nowhere else for them to go.


As funding for vital psychiatric services continues to dwindle, mental illness in America has become a virtual prison with no exit.

As America’s mental health system continues to disintegrate the National Alliance on Mental Illness has honored a call to conscience. We have become the nation’s hidden mental health system.


Come with us and help us break into the nation’s jails and prisons where mental illnesses are now hopelessly locked and shackled.


Join us in our deep concern that the flurry of state budget-cutting means that the newer, more effective psychiatric medicines will be replaced by the old, inexpensive antipsychotic drugs first used in the 1950’s.


Those of us who served time in the old psychiatric wards remember these primitive medicines for what they were, the chemical straitjackets of generations past. The use of these brutal drugs is seared into memory and archived in the truth of the times.


Although some people do respond to these drugs, most of the time they only added to the breaking weight of our illnesses. America must never yield to the temptation to return to the first-line use of these cheap and cruel psychiatric drugs.


Come and stand watch with us as the high-profile tragedies of mental illnesses keep coming and going. Time after time, they grab headlines and hearts. But wait with us while the news stories stop and the faces fade.


Wait with us while the speeches, the horror and regrets just fall away into America’s archives of the forgotten where nothing ever moves or changes.

Come into our offices and shadow staff and volunteers as we field frantic calls from people who can’t access modern medications or find a hospital bed.

Pick up our phones and listen to the desperate appeals of parents who can’t find or afford psychiatric care for the children.


Child and adolescent psychiatric services are disappearing all over the country. Mental illnesses are the single most important cause of suicide. Many of the children and teens who commit suicide have a diagnosable and treatable disorder of the brain.


With no hope of help, many of these families are living with wrenching helplessness as they watch these treatable illnesses claim their children. For these children and families, daylight is turning into twilight.

The National Alliance is scrambling to support these families and provide them with information and strategies on early-onset disorders of the brain.

Out of the chaos of mental illness in America, the truth is rising to the top to be told.


Chronic underfunding, low priorities and the “politics of exclusion” have left our nation’s mental health system in a state of rubble and ruin.

Decades of ruthless state budget-cutting have created a powerful undertow of disappearing services and lost lives.


One in five individual’s struggle with these disorders of the brain, that is twenty per cent of America, yet remain little more than an ill-defined and optional constituency of conscience. Without powerful lobbyists or large campaign donations, it seems our political influence is reduced to nods and nothing.


What we do have is the power and influence of sheer numbers and the inalienable truth that mental illnesses do not diminish our humanity or dim our inheritance as Americans. 


But without action and reaction powerlessness perpetuates itself and injustice remains encamped.  


The time has come to shake off the stigma that has silenced us and shake the dust of discouragement from our feet.


Come and join us as we lobby the U.S. Congress and the state legislatures for equal representation and for funding of critically necessary life-sustaining medications and effective services.


Above all, the basic unit of empowerment in America is true to its value: every person, every vote and every election matters. If we are vigilant-if we vote and make ourselves heard-the “politics of exclusion” will have to yield to the politics of inclusion and conscience.


My deepest desire is that all of America will see the light of our humanity and proximity.


This is the light that will reveal the deep shroud of silence and stigma that continues to cover the lives of those who are living with these disorders of the brain. When the light comes and the shroud falls away our names and faces will be known; we are your neighbors, your loved ones and your friends.


Peggy J. Symons © Copyright 

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Our services are free and our helplines are open. 1-800- 950- NAMI (6264)

info@nami.org TEXT NAMI to 741741. In crisis call 911 or 1- 800-273-Talk-(8255)





LETTERS TO THE EDITOR    Daytona Beach News-Journal

January 12, 2020     Mental health changes

The Jan. 14 opening of the Florida Legislature is an opportunity to spotlight several bills concerning mental illnesses, including decriminalizing these illnesses.

Nationally, we are spending $80 billion a year to criminalize mental illnesses. The cost of housing a person with a mental illness in prison is three times greater than the cost of community level psychiatric services. Even so, there are nine times as many people with mental illnesses in prisons than hospitals. Suicide is a disturbing cause of death in prisons.

Hidden facts also reveal double the number of women with serious mental illnesses in prisons than men.

Some have a history of trauma, including sexual assault. This also applies to girls in the juvenile justice system.

In addition, it is worthy to note that 50 percent of women with schizophrenia are victims of trauma. This gender disparity is a red flag.

Decriminalizing mental illnesses is a vision whose time has come. Stigma is becoming a dying dragon as increasing numbers of celebrities, sports giants and ordinary people are coming forth to speak of their experiences with a mental illness, which are disorders of the brain.

This outreach is vital; without personal stories these illnesses would be nothing but facts without faces.

It is difficult to face the facts on suicide and mental illnesses and not shrink from their terrible truth, but they cannot be softened without losing their urgency to inaction.

The spirit and intent of every bill that would alter the course of mental illnesses should be locked into law before they fall away without action.

There is no reason Florida cannot take excellence in the way we treat mental illnesses to the top of the nation. Our losses, including preventable death, are too great to do anything less.

Peggy Symons  Deland






Suicide prevention should be a focus for Volusia, Flagler, Florida

October 3, 2019


Christine Flowers’ moving article on the personal impact of suicide highlights the seemingly endless grief of a nation searching for answers to a surge of lost lives.

Her article breaks the silence over a complex epidemic with no easy solutions.

However, clear information adds hope for understanding and preventing one of the top ten causes of death.

Nationally, suicide rates have risen over 30 per cent. It is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10, yes, 10 to 34. The rate for women has nearly doubled. Seniors are dying in alarming numbers. According to the Florida Department of Health, we are losing more people to suicide than traffic accidents, breast cancer and AIDS.

Not all suicides are caused by a mental illness. However, they are tightly linked. A graphic picture of the sheer prevalence of mental illness, including concealed depression, is a packed football stadium. One in five spectators have or will have an illness associated with very high mortality rates but only 40-50 per cent who need psychiatric services receive them.

Unfortunately, Florida’s suicide rate is rising.

Overwhelmed, underfunded systems of psychiatric services that cannot consistently deliver critical care, including suicide prevention, are a magnet for reform and a compelling directive for bipartisan action.

The 2020 Legislature has an extraordinary opportunity to establish evidence-based prevention practices and strategic funding decisions for the rest of the nation to follow. But without clarity, we will continue to wobble around unsure of the way forward.

Relevant facts on suicide drive reasoned debate, stabilize differences and create common ground for action. They also break the foggy unity between stigma and mental illnesses.

Reliable information is among Florida’s greatest assets, it is the gathering place of hope. In fact, information can be the agent of change for a grieving nation.

Peggy J. Symons, DeLand

Symons is a long-time advocate for better access to mental health services. 

By the numbers

In 2018, Flagler County saw 28 suicides. Adjusted for population, that gives it the eight-highest suicide rate in Florida. In Volusia County, 125 people took their lives. That gives it an adjusted per-capita rank of 28th.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, contact the local SMA Healthcare crisis line at (800) 539-4228.

Authors Note:You may not know this now but your life is too precious to lose. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 

 1 800 273 8255 or text TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.





The First International Bank of Love

The First International Bank of Love is the most secure bank on earth; no one can break into it because the doors are always open. Jesus opened all the accounts; they are free because he paid for them with his life. He built a bank that will never fail or default.

Daily banking earns unlimited interest. Overdrafts are always welcome; so are deposits. No withdrawals are ever denied and the bank doesn’t return anything for insufficient value.

Tellers are waiting to tell everyone who comes into the bank about the currency that never runs out. In fact, runs on the bank only multiples the gifts inside the vaults.

There are no long wait lines or hidden charges; it is easy to transfer love from one account holder to another without penalties or cost.

The wealth of the nations is stored in this bank; the treasury is a wellspring that never runs dry.

The First International Bank of Love is waiting for anyone willing to withdraw its hope for the future and redemption of the past.

Bankers hours do not limit transactions, so come to the Bank of Love; it is never closed no matter what time you come to the door.

Peggy J. Symons  © Copyright 





That Forgiveness is not a virtue taught.

It is a place deep in the Spirit where Love’s

Most difficult battles are fought.

It is a place where darkness

Is transformed by light,

Where sins of the heart

Fall away as if they never stood.

This is the way of the Lord

And this is where He lives,     

Forgiveness is His Greatest Gift

“My Son will Show you the way.”


Copyright Peggy J. Symons







I wrote this vision of hate years ago when I was writing a book on surviving post-traumatic stress disorder.

I recently recognized its value as a picture of hate and its power to deceive.


Hates Last Dance


At first, dancing with hate was fun. It was dressed in fatal attraction and counterfeit light. It had top coats and tailor-made accessories cut to fit and fit to cut.


Hate and its fashion show locked eyes with me and the dance erupted in a deadly duet. Point for counterpoint, in the thrill and glamour of pirouetting with hates hands I twirled and whirled in the bright lights of the dance. The dance spun, it rocked, it rolled and it burned. But hate hit the dimmer switch and the dance floor dropped.


Even as the lights began to fade I didn’t realize anything was amiss. The music on the ballroom floor had such a righteous ring I didn’t even have a subtle sense that the floor was dropping or that I was dancing to the deadbeats of hate and a falling floor.


But when hate dances it doesn’t write its name on its shoes until it is too late to put out the fire in its feet.


When darkness fell over the dance floor, the music stopped and the night stood still. Hate pulled off its nightshades and dropped the thin socks that hid the fire in its feet.


As the flames in its feet got brighter, my poisonous partner stripped off its topcoat; there were diamonds on its back.


Thank God, the Son of Forgiveness yanked me off the ballroom floor just before this blind date with hate was my last dance.



Copyright Pending

Peggy J. Symons





In Memory of My Friend:

                                 Dr. Walter J.Muller 

 June 14, 1934-April 13, 2019





On May 10, 2019, All Saints Episcopal Church in Winter Park, Florida held a beautiful service celebrating the life of my friend, Dr. Walter J. Muller.

I knew Dr. Muller for 44 years, 34 years as my doctor and then onto the rest of his life as my good friend. After he retired we began to collaborate on a book about living with mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia.

Although the book was never published, it was interesting to look back over the life and accomplishments of an extraordinary man.

Several years after we started the book we came across notes of 1970’s lecture on schizophrenia.

This is what Dr. Muller wrote:

People with schizophrenia:

Have great sensitivity

Great sense of humanity

Have great resiliency.          

Have great courage

If you want a true friend, pick someone with schizophrenia.


Why psychiatrists choose to treat these patients:

 Payback to the community. 

 Great source of satisfaction

 The opportunity to be innovative



This remarkable view of schizophrenia is as revolutionary now as it was in the 1970s.

The notes were also bullet points right into the heart of stigma. Schizophrenia was so stigmatizing it was banished from the conversation and hidden in state institutions.

In the 1970s this illness had a chronic grip; there was nowhere to get out of its way or pacify its relentless course into hopelessness. For thousands, schizophrenia was either a life sentence or a death sentence. This illness is still accompanied by high rates of suicide.

Dr. Muller’s interest in serious illnesses began while he was a young resident in psychiatry at Cornell University’s New York Hospital.

He witnessed the fate of schizophrenia which was often repeated hospitalizations with no alternatives or hope of achieving meaningful lives.

Dr. Muller knew there had to be a better way. He brought an unheard-of plan of community residential treatment for young people with schizophrenia to his supervisors who told him he was a daydreamer to go back and finish his paperwork. But he didn’t let go of this remarkable vision.

When he finished his residency he and his wife, Delle, stepped into uncharted territory. At the time there was no model of residential treatment of schizophrenia to pattern their plans.

After settling in Winter Park the Muller’s and a small group of dedicated volunteers refurbished a quaint, yellow wooden house on the corner of Canton and Knowles Street in downtown Winter Park. They named this unassuming residence La Amistad, which means house of friendship.

They welcomed twelve young people with serious mental illnesses into homelike surroundings. Over the years hundreds of residents came and went. It was a seemingly impossible vision but they made it work.

Because of Dr. Muller’s compassionate and innovative understanding of mental illnesses, many people who would have spent their entire lives in state hospitals or died in despair went on to meaningful lives. As a 1970’s resident of La Amistad I often saw hope poured into people who, in many minds, were hopelessly ill. I am one.

Dr. Muller persevered in the treatment of serious mental illnesses for forty years.

Along the way he lived to see the biological foundation of mental illnesses firmly established, the birth of advocacy and the current revolution in the perception of these illnesses led by an army of young people.

Dr. Muller was a pioneer and a visionary. He was a man of honor and a doctor of distinction.

He is missed but the light of his vision and compassionate care lives on in many people.

Hope was the gift of his calling.




National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.


Common warning signs of suicide.

1. Threats or comments about killing themselves. This may begin with seemingly harmless comments like "I wish I wasn't here."
2. Increased alcohol or drug use.
3. Aggressive behavior
4. Social withdrawal from friends, family and community.
5. Dramatic mood swings
6. Talking, writing or thinking about death.
7. Impulsive or Reckless Behavior.
8. Putting their Affairs in order or giving away possessions.
9. Saying goodbye to family and friends.
10. Mood shifts from despair to calm.
11. Planning, possibly by looking around, to buy, steal or borrow the tools needed to commit suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication.
Thinking about suicide is a medical emergency on par with a heart attack.
Don't wait or feel like no one cares.
Go to the emergency room and tell them how you feel and that you need and want help.
Your life is too precious to lose.



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 24/7



No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.



Dust in the boxes

Dust in the Boxes

Dust in the Boxes was the most haunting image of mental illness I ever held in my hands.

The vision hasn’t dimmed or faded with the passing of time. It is as clear and present as the day I saw it.



I don’t remember where I saw the inside of an abandoned state mental institution; whether it was a documentary, a few pages of a narrative, a lecture, a dream or something half remembered. Somewhere in the mix a story rose that wasn’t there before.

And so I saw a giant state mental institution, one of many that were built in the early 1900’s. Completely banished from society, thousands of people lived out their lives and died in these massive monuments to despair.

In the 1950’s the early psychiatric medications came to market. Some people improved enough to return to their communities. The hospitals emptied even further in response to a 1960’s federal mandate to deinstitutionalize people with severe mental illnesses.

With most patients gone some of these institutions closed and then were abandoned entirely.

Time reached up and overtook the memory of the inmates. There was nothing left except cemeteries lying adjacent to these huge human warehouses.

Some filled to capacity over the decades, and with no other options, cremation was the final resting place of severe mental illnesses.

I came to the edge of this historical vision and opened the door into one of these crumbling institutions. I was struck by the silence, nothing was moving in these ruins not even the breath of life.

The light was dim and I walked into deep shadows. I looked around and saw a shelf with a half a dozen small, worn cardboard boxes lined up against a wall. The boxes were filled with ashes.

Unknown and unclaimed, they were the dust of people who lived and died as captives to these giant institutions and the hopeless hold of mental illnesses.

I picked up one of the boxes and turned it over and over in my hands.

There was no name inscribed on the cardboard. Anyone who entered these human warehouses was sentenced to obscurity.

But I knew who they were; they weren’t the remnants of ghosts, they were the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the children and the brothers and sisters who were committed to these institutions and never came home.

I saw a small window in one of the walls of this concrete crypt. It was hazy and yellowed with age. It was raining outside of this forsaken place. It was always raining.

I put the box down and pressed my hand against the pane. Rain drops were hitting the window. They hit hard; the falling rain was hopelessness and its river of tears.

I put the silent box of ashes back on the shelf, it was filled with despair and heavy in my hands.

The door into the vision closed and I left. But my memory of the people who lived and died in the wracking anguish of untreatable mental illnesses will never pass away.

The only things that separate me from the dust in the cardboard boxes is time and modern medications.


Peggy J. Symons

 © copyright



Bullying: An Appeal to Hero’s Hearts

This is a story about the heart of a hero.

I attended a Catholic school for several years. By seventh grade I was clearly struggling with a mental illness. But all of us wore the same socks and uniforms and I was never bullied in a school atmosphere that required respect for other students.

Transferring into the public-school system was a shock. Between wearing a uniform for so long and cluelessness and I had no idea what to wear the first day of school.  I looked in my closet and pulled out a red skirt, a purple blouse and red sneakers along with socks. I had no idea at the time, public school girls didn’t wear socks or red sneakers.

From the first day I was a target for ridicule and rejection. Among other things I was quickly labeled with the name of a bear on a TV show. When I was taking a shower after gym class the kids took the clothes I put on a hook outside the shower and threw them into a sink full of water. Before class they took my books and put them on top of the public address box near the ceiling where I couldn’t reach them before substitute teachers stopped it.

In November, my mother allowed me to walk up to the neighborhood shopping center to buy a jacket. I bought a blue size twenty jacket although I was a size fourteen because I thought I was getting more material for my money. Looking back, wearing the jacket to school was a mistake; it was so big I was probably floating in it. The other kids spotted the ill-fitting jacket immediately and it became the object of more ridicule.

One time, uninvited and unexpected, I sat down at a table in the cafeteria with a group of popular students.

One boy was so embarrassed his face flushed red and he left the table. No one wanted to be seen with me. I was weird, overweight, had unwashed frizzy hair and could not relate to the other kids.

I felt totally alone even though there were hundreds of students in my school. I could not find friends on my own because I had difficulty communicating like everyone else.

The bullying and rejection hurt me as if I was being stabbed by a knife. I could not fight back. I didn’t know how.

Let me tell you about a boy named Bob. He sat next to me in math class. He was friendly, popular and a good student. I was the weirdest, ugliest, most unpopular kid in the school.

But Bob talked to me in full view of the other kids risking his own good standing with them.  He joked around and treated me the same way he treated his other friends.

About half way through the year he invited me over to his house to look through his new telescope. I saw the moon up close and how bright the stars were through the lens of the telescope and the respect of my friend.

Finding friends in kids who are being bullied is the truest test of a hero’s heart. It is doing what is unpopular or even laughed at.

Like Bob, heroes have the courage to split off from what other kids think and reach out to kids who are being torn to pieces by bullying because they have a mental illness; kids who can be rejected and avoided as the weirdest kids in the whole school.

It’s easy to see hero’s when they run into burning buildings to pull others to safety or come to the rescue of someone who is drowning. It’s harder to see the hero’s hearts of kids who see the helpless pain and desperate loneliness of bullied kids and pull them to safety in the hands of friendship.

When Bob reached out and befriended me he rescued me from the torment of rejection, loneliness and hopelessness.

I lost track of Bob after high school but I will never forget a hero’s heart because my friend turned towards me, instead of away. He pulled me into the safety of complete acceptance. 

I will never forget Bobs kindness and the risks he took to be my friend.

I will never forget my hero.

Peggy J. Symons Copyright



The Gift of a Captive Mind Continues to be Written.


The original title of this book was Mental Illness: Notes of a Native in the Night. Over time, notes became stories and then pages and chapters.


As I wrote, I began to see the value of The Gift of a Captive Mind filling out the academic presentation of mental illnesses.
The Captive Mind doesn’t contradict the facts and statistics essential to the academic press, instead, it writes between the lines with the actual experiences of living with these illnesses.


In the end,The Gift of a Captive  Mind becomes a gift for every mind.
It tunnels through a lifelong illness and comes out into the places we are all alike in one way or another.


Whether or not we have a mental illness we are all running the same rapids.
But it is also important to know these disorders can be persistent, biological and there are currently no cures. So, it is not possible to tell the story of a Captive Mind and put false faces on these illnesses lest anyone who walks this way become discouraged in their own struggle to survive.


Like many others I live with sufficient remnants of this illness and its habits of reemergence that I would never leave any impression I have walked completely away from a serious mental illness in some act of high- held virtue.


During the time The Gift of a Captive Mind was written, I finished a book about thirty years of posttraumatic stress disorder and finding my way out.
It took thirteen years to write. 


Someday, I hope it will lead others out of the captivity of Post-Traumatic Stress.








Capturing Rosalyn Carter,

Capturing Hope



Rosalyn Carter was first lady to President Jimmy Carter. She was a passionate, public and powerful advocate for people dealing with mental illnesses.

At the time she wrote this letter (March 23, 2007) Mrs. Carter was a high profile ally of the national push to enact laws mandating insurance coverage for mental illnesses and substance use to be equal to other medical conditions.

On October 3, 2008, the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed into law.

I hope Mrs. Carter is remembered for the lantern of hope she carried and her willingness to pursue justice on behalf of people who have no voice.

Millions were touched by her light.

July 31,2018

















Fund mental care before a tragedy

Orlando Sentinel -Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Since the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado 15 years ago, one mass murder after another has shaken the nation. The latest rampage was at the hands of a California man who had a long history of mental illness.
It is a grave error to look away from the high-profile tragedies seizing other states with the complacent illusion that somehow Florida is immune from the toll and consequences of untreated mental illnesses.
Keeping in mind that people living with serious mental illnesses are overwhelmingly nonviolent, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a small fraction of individuals who do become violent, almost always in the absence of treatment and modern medications.
Legitimate debate over how to prevent further loss of life is breaking out all over the nation, including Florida. Searching for answers to violence and mental illnesses must encompass the fact that the greatest loss of life to mental illness in Florida isn't to homicide; it is to suicide and early death accruing through decades of restricted access to timely and effective psychiatric services.
Suicide rates are rising; 2,922 people in Florida ended their lives in 2012. More than 90 percent of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness.
In addition, nearly two-thirds of those suffering with these diseases of the brain are not receiving treatment.
More than two dozen psychiatric hospitals have closed since 1995, leaving thousands of the most acutely ill people in the state nowhere to go.
These statistics are a sliver of Florida's fatally flawed policy of neglecting serious mental illnesses.
Prejudice and discrimination have put serious mental illnesses at the back of the bus for decades; yet lawmakers never seem to see the collision between failed public policy and preventable loss of life.
Predictably, the 2014 Legislature convened and adjourned leaving Florida stubbornly stuck at 49th in the nation for funding community-level psychiatric care.
Until the state of Florida is stunned into action by a sudden strike of violence, significant reform of one of the nation's most inadequate and underfunded mental-health systems will remain mired in low priorities and the hidden suffering of thousands of people, including children, who are shut out of any hope of recovery from serious mental illnesses.
There are warning bells tolling through every life lost to mental illnesses. We cannot turn away as if we do not hear; the bells are tolling for us.

Letter To The Editor,  Peggy Symons

Mental illness treatment left out of Parkland shooting

Make mental illness treatment a priority


Intense media coverage of the school-shooting rampage that left 17 people dead is creating a detailed picture of what happened. However, there are missing tornadoes in the multitude of these accounts.


The hardest hitting is failure to spotlight the magnitude of suicides associated with mental illnesses. People are ending their own lives at a rate over double that for homicides and at numbers that exceed traffic fatalities. Ninety percent had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, including concealed depression.

Without fully assessing the shocking death toll of those with mental illnesses, there is no cohesive vision to bring the treatment of mental illnesses to the forefront of legislative priorities.

Relatively small bumps in funding sideswipe the truth: Mental illnesses in Florida are seared with hopelessness. We remain immovably present at the bottom of the nation for per-capita spending on mental illnesses in spite of a deep need and some dedicated lawmakers who have already tried to pursue a path forward.

Given the staggering death toll associated with these common disorders of the brain, we can’t do anything less — not without compromising the right to life.

Peggy Symons of  DeLand, Florida

  February 26, 2018


               A Focus On School Safety, Mental Health

USA TODAY (Arlington, VA) - Friday, April 5, 2013
For many people, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Conn., ripped the shadows of indifference off the face of
mental illness in America and exposed a fractured and utterly failed mental
heath system.

The eyes of the nation should be riveted on the consequences.

In 2010, suicides outnumbered traffic fatalities, and chronic homelessness haunts our streets. One in five families is affected by mental illness.

A high-profile push for access to vital psychiatric
services rippled out of the first aftershocks of the Newtown massacre, but
momentum is quickly slipping away, eclipsed by the gun-control debate.

Time is ticking; we must create a funded and functioning system of
psychiatric services for our most desperately ill. If not now, when?

Peggy J. Symons   Deland, Fla.

Copyright 2013 Gannett Co., Inc.
All rights reserved.






Letters to the editor Thursday, October 23, 2014

Daytona Beach News-Journal


            Greatest toll of gun violence


Mary Sanchez’s Oct. 13 column, “Guns, mental illness equal tragedy,” considers the impact of neglecting these illnesses with an indisputable point: Some of our most profoundly ill citizens are falling through the cracks of a deeply flawed mental health system and landing with deadly force.

Contrary to the high-profile violence that keeps grabbing headlines, the greatest toll of mental illnesses isn’t murder — it is suicide. Suicide outnumbers homicide at a rate of approximately 2-to-1, and 90 percent of those who die by their own hands have a diagnosable mental illness. Any other medical condition with preventable mortality rates this high would command swift, decisive and newsworthy action.

But we continue to pursue a path of complacency rife with imminent danger. Unfortunately, Florida is leading the way, at 49th in the nation for per-capita spending on mental illnesses. Two-thirds of those in need of psychiatric services, including children and teens, are going without treatment. Every year the hope of families desperate for psychiatric services rises and then falls as the Florida Legislature makes annual budget decisions that segregate mental illnesses into a category of conditions deemed to be unworthy of medical care. It is unthinkable that we would deny medical treatment, hospital services and social assistance to people suffering with cancer and heart disease or turn them out onto the streets to die, become homeless, imprisoned or victims of violent crimes, but it is to this measure we have abandoned our mentally ill.

The greatest toll of mental illnesses comes with the death of hope. Suicide is the mortal wound of despair.

The best way to disarm mental illnesses is to provide immediate access to effective psychiatric services before these treatable disorders of the brain take their last breath in preventable acts of violence.

Peggy J. Symons


Copyright: Copyright, 2014, The News-Journal Corporation









Care could save lives, money


The News-Journal's front-page focus on Florida's failed mental health system was well-timed and graphically accurate.


Although violence is not inherent to mental illness, the shootings in Newtown, Conn., have pushed

Florida's response to mental illness into the headlines.

The neurobiological legitimacy of mental illnesses has been established for decades. However, the belief that these illnesses are character flaws or the consequence of personal irresponsibility are still widely held stereotypes. Unfortunately, they continue to drive funding decisions in Florida.

Without understanding the costly consequences, slashing funds for psychiatric services and modern medications creates an avalanche of losses, most of them hidden.


Mental illnesses, like any other medical condition, can get worse without treatment. Long waits for appointments and restricting access to medication creates dismal outcomes. Of note, Harvard Medical School found that missing as few as one day to 10 days of antipsychotic medications doubles the risk of hospitalization.


In addition, mental illnesses in Florida are still shackled to inappropriate criminalization. At the rate Florida is using prisons for hospitals, taxpayers are on the hook for $3.6 billion in the next 10 years to build and operate new state prisons. Without fundamental reform of the criminalization of mental illness, taxpayers will continue to feed a perpetual-motion machine with grinding jaws.


But the ultimate cost of mental illness is suicide. Suicides now outnumber traffic fatalities. Ninety percent of those who commit suicide have diagnosable and treatable mental illnesses. The measure of suffering imposed by mental illnesses is in these numbered lives; many of whom had no hope of help.


Clearly, the most expensive treatment of mental illness is no treatment. Florida's mental-health system is in critical condition. Our legislators must reframe funding decisions based on Florida's facts. When people with mental illnesses win, everyone wins.



of DeLand, Florida




                Capturing Esmine Green

Esmine Green: The Violence of Indifference

I have come to bring Ms. Esmine Green out of the shadows of lost hope and cries of unheard anguish.

On June 19, 2009, Ms. Green was taken by ambulance to Kings County Hospital in New York City acutely ill with schizophrenia.

She sat and waited over 24 hours until blood clots formed and killed her.

Although she writhed, fell out of her chair onto the floor and died, she was ignored until a worker finally came over, pushed her with his foot and saw she was dead.

Evidence of her death and the circumstances in which she died were immediately scurried away in falsified documents. Ms. Green died waiting for help that never came.

I will never forget the brutal force of indifference to her suffering or the global news and outrage covering her 24 hours in hell.

I also knew Ms. Green would be quickly and completely forgotten-and she was.

The helpless horror of the way she died disappeared as fast as it burned the news but conscience and accountability were standing by with a note pad.

Everything was video recorded and subsequently obtained by the Americans for Civil Liberties Union.

The city settled with her family for two million dollars but what price was paid for the violence of indifference?

Ms. Green was not a captive of bygone era; she was captive of a place she didn’t matter.

We should not forget her story; she left red flags flying over indifference. It is the nucleus of neglect and the crown jewel of hidden abuse.

Peggy J. Symons  © Copyright 






Hope is a fragile flame and a bright light.

It is easy to give and even easier to take away.

Once the flame of hope is lit it must be carefully kept and kindled.

When hope burns brightly there is fire in its feet and the breath of life is on its lips.

There is purity in its purpose, vision in its light and healing in its truth.

Whether we teach, write, counsel or mop the halls the hopeless walk we are all called to be hope givers and keepers of the flame.

Blessed are the hope givers.


Peggy J. Symons  copyright





Sometimes violence is in the eyes of the beholder.


This is a true story.


I had taken my friends dog to the vet. As the dog and I were settling our account at the front desk, a young man came through the front door. His hands were cupped together, he was holding something. He looked to be in his twenties and was obviously mentally ill. He had long, dark hair flying everywhere. He was also dressed in rags, I had little doubt that he was homeless as well.

When he approached the desk I could see he was holding a badly injured bird in his hands. He asked the ladies at the desk if the vet would take care of the bird.

Whether it was because he was mentally ill or poor or that it was true they didn’t take care of birds, they sent him away with the injured bird in his hands.

As my own tears fell I thought the world has it all backwards; it isn’t always the violence caused by people who live with mental illnesses that steals from society; it is the hardness of heart that sees our humanity and turns away.

I don’t know what happened to the bird or where the young man went, but I will never forget what compassion looks like when it is cradled as a dying bird in the hands of a human being who is mentally ill and homeless.


Peggy J. Symons of Deland, Florida

Copyright  © Peggy J. Symons

Mental Ilnesses and Mental Health: Capturing the Slippery Bridge


Another article on death due to “mental health disorders” captures the slippery bridge between mental health and mental illness.

Reports on mental illnesses ranging from murders to movie reviews are peppered with the words “mental health” freely switched for “mental illness.

What seems a minor twist of language is a symptom of a broad national consensus to engage the words “mental health” and pretend they mean mental illness.

Misappropriating “mental health” is so deeply entrenched it is difficult to refer to these disorders of the brain without using deceptively uniform language that corrupts the biological nature of these hard hitting diseases.

Stripped of charades, the irrelevant words “mental health” are a wink and a nod hiding an insurgent truth

America’s “mental health” system is fractured, failed and vastly underfunded, leaving millions of people behind with no hope of recovery.

In a travesty of mistaken identities, one in five individuals, including many children, are struggling to survive brain diseases with extraordinary mortality rates but their “mental health conditions” makes it easy to deny treatment and modern medications and then turn away from the death and devastation that follows. We are hiding their hopelessness in a familiar clash of opposing words.

Ninety percent of those who end their own lives have a diagnosable mental illness. Virtually meaningless “mental health disorders” do not drive people to suicide; mental illnesses do.

Switching illness for health allows us to bury this massive loss of life in an avalanche of indifference without bearing the weight of conscience. 

In addition, these neurological disorders are the only medical conditions overshadowed with sufficient fictional license to blur the boundaries between illness and health; a substantial mistake that further minimizes the crushing power of these illnesses and dismisses the suffering they cause as less than real.

Finally, these brazenly contradictory terms become outright ludicrous when we seal our most seriously ill citizens in the “mental health” sections of our jails and prisons.

We are hiding one of the deepest moral failures of our times in jail jumpsuits-out of sight-out of mind.

We have coddled the incongruence between mental health and mental illness too long. It serves no purpose except to hide the way we treat our mentally ill.

The evidence keeps pouring in; the disparate corollary between mental health and mental illness isn’t innocent; it is disastrous.

Peggy J. Symons  © Copyright 


Message to the Florida Legislature, April ,2017


I am bringing thousands of people with mental illnesses with me.

Many are silenced by stigma and discrimination; others cannot tell the stories of the life and death impact of delays and denials of psychiatric medicines.


The people I speak for have serious mental illnesses. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and suicidal despair are not mental health disorders. They are caused by real, life threatening, physical ravages in the function of the brain. Ninety percent of those who commit suicide had a diagnosable mental illness.


Before expertly and tediously prescribed modern medicines schizophrenia was either a life sentence or a death sentence; I lost half my life to it.


I failed on over thirty medications before my doctors finally found the right medications at the right doses. Failing on some of these medicines was like getting hit by a truck; hospitalization followed.


It is critical to note many psychiatric medications don’t work the same way; in addition, the function of the brain is individually unique and extraordinarily complex; medications that can save the life of one person can send someone else to the hospital. Carefully prescribed and balanced, our medications can build some beautiful bridges between what is broken by the physiology of mental illnesses and a meaningful life.


For me, as for others, missing one dose of carefully and individually prescribed medication, or the wrong medicine, begins to break the fragile bridges between hope and hopelessness.


In fact, Harvard Medical School found that missing from one to ten days of antipsychotic medications doubles the risk of hospitalization; its three days for me.


It is far easier and less expensive to prevent a psychiatric collapse than have to go back and pick up the pieces of the shattered hope of a meaningful life.


The future is closing in on mental illnesses. Science and suffering will join hands and then move on having created better treatments and medications and eventually cures. Research will eventually free us but for now, granting doctors the unimpeded ability to prescribe the right medicines at the right time at the right doses is the best hope of surviving these sometimes rapidly moving, too often deadly illnesses.


These difficult disorders of the brain don’t dwell on either side of a partisan divide; they dwell in families. One in five of us will have a mental illness at some point. No one is immune; not by wealth or estate, male or female, young or old. Stepping up to the Florida Legislature to represent all of us is both honorable and difficult.


Right now, we are at the intersection where many lost lives can become meaningful lives. If we look deeply into the faces of serious mental illnesses we will see our own humanity in these crossroads.


Time is turning in the light of this shared vision. There is a profound communion between hope and responsibility in our hands; what we do now will determine the future of mental illnesses in Florida.


Unfettered access to psychiatric medicines is the foundation of hope and the bridge into normal lives.


Never doubt you are appreciated.

Peggy J. Symons  © Copyright 






More focus on kids' mental health

 The Orlando Sentinel
Monday, September 9, 2013
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs' bold move charging the
new Youth Mental Health Committee with proposing real changes in children's
mental-health services not only legitimized the suffering of children with
untreated mental illness, it focused a light on mental illness in general.
Jacobs understands that the toll and consequences of neglecting these
illnesses is too great to ignore.

Seventy percent of the children locked
in the nation's juvenile-justice system have some form of a mental illness.
Clearly, our approach to mental illnesses in children is a junior version of the
well-known and disastrously expensive criminalization of adults who should also
be in hospitals or cost-effective community care.

The neurobiological nature of mental illness is well-established, but people with these treatable
disorders of the brain, including our children, continue to deal with stigma and
discrimination. Inappropriate incarceration of children is part of a disturbing
picture of untreated mental illnesses.

According to the Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14. Suicide is an inherent risk for both children and adults with
mental illnesses. Access to timely and effective psychiatric intervention for these individuals is a lifeline.
 But every year, our legislators make policy and funding decisions that keep us at the bottom of the nation in per-capita spending on serious mental illnesses. Without sufficient funding for
the treatment of brain disorders, the only future for some is more jailings,
suicides, homelessness and crisis-center admissions.

The eyes of ever lawmaker in the state should be riveted on the hidden fates of those with mental illnesses in Florida. They are the darkest places in the Sunshine State.
Many priorities are established before the annual legislative session
begins in 2014. Now is the time to take our children and loved ones into the
district offices of those who represent us in Tallahassee, and with one voice,
tell them when there is help for mental illnesses, there is hope for recovery.

 Thousands of lives that could have been saved, including those of our
children, have already been swept away by years of neglect and political
indifference. Together, we can turn this terrible tide.
Peggy J. Symons lives in DeLand
Copyright (c) 2013, Orlando Sentinel Communications. All rights reserved



- Friday, March 22, 2002

Peggy Symons



As the date of the Academy Awards approaches, once again A Beautiful Mind is on the American mind.

The box-office draw of the story of the Nobel Prize
winner John Nash's journey through life with schizophrenia has pulled this
illness out of the dark and dusty basement of non-awareness right onto center
stage. It has created a bridge of shared experience as the story of Nash's life
unfolds with some striking parallels to my own experience of living with a
psychotic disorder.

The frightening intensity of Nash's delusional world
was so authentically presented that I, of all people, thought it was real.

In the three months since the release of A Beautiful Mind, the widely
held stereotypes that we are categorically violent people or "split
personalities" are yielding to the understanding of just how human we are. There is a new understanding that a person living with schizophrenia can have a beautiful mind. People are now asking who we are. They are beginning to
understand our humanity and that this is an illness of intense impact. It is no
one's fault, and it is never a choice.

Neuroscience is advancing on
schizophrenia, but it is a complex, chronic and challenging disorder. It will
give up its secrets slowly. The current focus on mental illness is an
opportunity of immediate relevance to present the needs of mentally ill people
as issues of substance. One in five families is struggling with the brain
disorders causing mental illnesses.

If anyone is looking for us, many of
us are behind the locked doors of prisons. Often we are arrested for our
symptoms rather than for true criminal intent. It is illegal to lie on park
benches or trespass on Dumpsters.

As funding for vital mental-health services dwindles, prisons have become the de facto psychiatric hospitals of the 21st century. Reduced to dollars and no sense, the costs of jailing us are more expensive than it would be to treat us. We exist behind the locked doors of "no access" to effective treatment. We live behind the walls of stigma and misunderstanding. This is where much of our humanity remains hidden.

It has been through the new lens of A Beautiful Mind that we have been given the vision to understand, to value and to respect the inner beauty of so many people like John Nash, walking through life with chronic, severe mental illnesses.
These are our neighbors and our loved ones. Who will see their inner beauty and who will know their names? How do we answer the age-old question of conscience and responsibility? Am I my brother's keeper?

If my brothers and sisters are the most profoundly ill and vulnerable among us, then, yes, the answer always comes back close to me:

I am my brother's keeper.


Memo: PeggySymons lives in Deland,Florida. She is a member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Mental
Health Association.





THE ORLANDO SENTINEL - Friday, January 14, 2000


Author: Peggy Symons , Special to the Sentinel


Who are these mentally ill people? They live under the interstate overpasses of every major city. Some sit locked away in prisons, talking to voices no one else can hear. They are voiceless; they are faceless. They are my less-fortunate mentally ill brethren. They look like me. They are my own.

Mental illness, with all its terrible power and consequences, swept out of hell, and struck me down at age 19, as I grew into adulthood. Schizoaffective disorder is a biologically determined brain disease that has symptoms of both schizophrenia and depression. Like all major mental illnesses, it is caused by a devastating disruption of the finely balanced chemistry of the brain.

All my off-and-on time in the hospitals presented the still-unanswered question, ``Why did this happen?'' I was just starting a very promising college career, and my hopes and dreams for the future were solid and intact. Perhaps, in my lifetime, as the mysteries of the human brain unfold, I will know why.

Instead of focusing on why I became mentally ill, I seek to define my purpose. I look for a reason and direction to evolve from the chaos of my illness. During the years, sometimes the direction that this schizoaffective disorder has taken me appears to be a downward spiral. Through depression, psychotic thinking and impaired functioning, it has dragged me through hell with no apparent purpose or mercy. With expert management of medicines that have sometimes helped, I emerge with new eyes and gratitude. I see the world and other people from a newly visible land of the living.

At these times I experience life with a new quality and dimension, with a depth of understanding that can be experienced only by someone who has journeyed through hell and by the grace of God has emerged alive and intact. I have come to know the deepest currents of the human condition. I know fear. I know pain and despair, and I have touched the face of death. But, most of all, I know love. I know the love of God and the love of the people who cared for me. They never abandoned me even as I slipped away from them.

For 23 years my long-term support group has met every week. All of us have major mental illnesses. We have moved into midlife together, meeting every Friday to gather enough courage from each other to go out, each week, and keep trying. We have learned from each other that mental illness in no way diminishes anyone's humanity. We are all people, whatever the state of the chemistry of our brains.

The darkness of mental illness has sensitized me to the goodness and warmth of other people. I look for it. I reach for it. And, when I find it, I treasure it.


I share this account of schizophrenia and depression to illustrate the essential humanity of mentally ill people. It speaks of what I know of the light that illuminates all souls, mentally ill or not. This is the light that binds us all together, for better or worse, in this sometimes-leaky human boat. As I search for a way to tell people who never gave up on me how much they've meant, and I think of the people under overpasses and the people locked away in the prisons of their own minds, I remember something the son of God said in Matthew 25:40: Whatsoever you shall do unto the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.


Memo: Peggy Symons is a long-distance bicycle rider and lives in Chuluota with her cat, Lambie. 


Edition: METRO  Section: EDITORIAL Page: A15
Record Number: 0001140129 Copyright 2000 Sentinel Communications Co.




Hope is a fragile flame and a bright light. It is easy to give and even easier to take away.      Once the flame of hope is lit it must be carefully kept and kindled.

When hope burns brightly there is fire in its feet and the breath of life is on its lips.

There is purity in its purpose, vision in its light and healing in its truth.

Whether we teach, write, counsel or mop the halls the hopeless walk we are all called to be hope givers and keepers of the flame.

Blessed are the hope givers.

Peggy J. Symons ©  Copyright 


By Peggy J. Symons

They steal in on airways,
Reserved for what is real,
Make my thoughts all frightened slaves,
And twist the way I feel.

They'll never walk away with me,
or steal what I love,
they'll never snatch away my key,
to God and human love.

So, I walk in quiet courage
As all around me spins,
And come to know the strength I wage,
I know what's real wins.


© copyright Peggy J. Symons



The Gift of a Captive mind

The Gift of a Captive Mind

I am currently writing the Gift of a Captive Mind. It is new.

The only voices in the Captive Mind are those of the narrator. It is not a collection of other peoples stories either.

It is simply written to fill out academic presentations of mental illnesses with the actual experiences of living with them.

The purpose is also to highlight the grief and losses that come with mental illnesses so that the suffering of individuals and families will never be discounted or shuffled away unseen and without hope.

I don’t know when the Gift of a Captive Mind will be finished but the end is in sight.

I have never been part of any other book on mental illness that has any hope of coming into the light of day.

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© Peggy Symons