In the battle to find what causes mental illness, scientists are increasingly looking at genetic factors. For James Longman – whose father killed himself after suffering from schizophrenia – it’s a very personal question.
I’m often told I look like my dad, that I have his mannerisms and some of his habits. It’s something I take pride in. But it’s also something that worries me because he had schizophrenia, and when I was nine, he took his own life.
After a particularly bad two-week episode, he set fire to his flat in London, and threw himself out of a window.
Some of the details of his life and death have only become clear while looking into this story. Multiple suicide attempts; walking around London in just a bathrobe; hearing voices. They are details that contrast so strongly with the man I remember from when he was well – happy, creative and funny.
Twenty years earlier, his own father – my grandfather – had shot himself after finding out he had cancer. I also have other family with mental health issues. Now in my twenties I sometimes struggle with depression. So I naturally think – is this something that runs in my family?
For a lot of people, mental health is a difficult thing to talk about. But those who deal with these issues can often point to family members with similar problems. Do I get depressed because of the trauma of losing my father in such tragic circumstances? Or is it written into my DNA?
– BBC News