Elevating Voices: Jeff & Nancy

Mar 29, 2022

Like many stories about Guild clients, Jeff and Nancy’s requires a deep, centering breath. What they’ve been through as parents of a son, Drew, who died by suicide, is instantly recognizable as horrific to any parent or person. So please take a moment to take that breath, and read on to learn more about Jeff, Nancy, and their son Drew.

Jeff told us that as a little boy, Drew was “physically healthy, active, intellectually curious, sensitive emotionally and very competitive, no matter the game or sport. He was also sensitive to loud sounds, clothing seams and had a very short fuse. His temper tantrums were the stuff of legend.” Those sensitivities and tantrums made Jeff and Nancy want to understand Drew’s unique needs more, seeking an evaluation from professionals. Drew was diagnosed with Sensory Auditory Processing Disorder.

In high school, Drew thrived academically and athletically. He took rigorous courses in math and science. According to Nancy, Drew was “an introvert by nature” and maintained relationships with a few close friends.

Once Drew was in college, it became clear that his concussions from playing high school football and a severe fall that led to a traumatic brain injury contributed to Drew’s increasingly aggressive and erratic behavior. After an incident with police, Drew was admitted to the hospital for psychiatric care. Drew was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 2 Disorder during that admission and was prescribed medication.

Jeff and Nancy struggled to share openly about what was happening with Drew. At our December 2021 Ladder of Hope event, Jeff shared, “During all this, we told only a handful of close friends about Drew’s diagnosis. We believed it was his story to tell and were very reluctant to be forthcoming at all about his mental illness. If Drew had been diagnosed with cancer or had had an accident, we wouldn’t have hesitated for a moment in telling our family and friends.”

Without the support of their community, who didn’t know how Drew’s mental illness was taking a turn for the worse, Jeff and Nancy felt “overwhelmed and uneducated about how to really help,” as Jeff said. During a 12-week Family-to-Family course with NAMI, Nancy and Jeff met George Broostin of Guild, who told their class about the many supportive resources Guild had to offer. Nancy said, “We wished we’d known about Guild at the time of Drew’s initial diagnosis, as they offer a myriad of services. Guild professionals are equipped to offer a team approach for client’s needs, customizing services for each individual.”

Drew graduated from college after six years of challenging course work and landed an excellent job in his field. Unfortunately, he had an outburst with his supervisor and lost that job. But he recovered quickly, landing an even better role in his highly technical field.

When Drew stopped taking his medication, his symptoms worsened, and he started abusing substances. He got a DUI and lost his license. He vehemently refused services. Jeff and Nancy turned to Guild, hiring the Community Access team as private pay clients. The Community Access team helped Jeff and Nancy navigate the system and develop new ideas for how to support Drew better.

After another violent incident and an overdose of prescription medication, Drew was again admitted for psychiatric care. When he was discharged, he discovered that he had been fired from his job. This news sent Drew into a tailspin. His manic episodes were increasingly difficult to control. His aggressive behaviors worsened, and he was in and out of the hospital.

Because Jeff and Nancy’s private insurance would not cover all the life-saving services Drew needed, the Community Access team at Guild recommended that the county assess Drew for Medical Assistance, which would cover the services. While Nancy and Jeff were in the process of helping to make that possible, Drew tragically ended his own life at 25 years old.

Drew grew up with many advantages and a supportive family, but those advantages didn’t innoculate him from mental illness. Since his death, Jeff and Nancy have become advocates for mental health services and volunteers and donors at Guild. By sharing Drew’s story, Jeff and Nancy hope to “point other families, like ours, in the direction of services that are available at Guild.”

Thank you, Jeff and Nancy, for sharing Drew’s story. We grieve his loss with you and appreciate all you have done for and with Guild. 

If you have questions about getting a mental health assessment, or if you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness call our Community Access team at (651) 925-8490. From there, our staff will ask questions to learn about your current situation and needs, so they can connect you to the best care.

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