Schizophrenia ‘robs’ Axminster man of father

AN AXMINSTER man has told how mental illness ‘robbed’ him of his father.

Tony Booth’s late dad was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his 30s – and family members say it changed his personality drastically.

Tony, a 43-year-old father-of-two, said having children made him aware of what was missing from his own father’s role.

He said: “Now I have my own children, it’s made it more obvious what was missing.

“My father wasn’t particularly loving. He was quite vacant and removed. I do feel I was robbed of a father figure.

“He was ill from the time I was born, so I never really knew him any other way.

“But the person they [sisters and mother] described before the illness set in, and who I knew, are completely different people.

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“They say he was a happy-go-lucky, successful businessman.

“It’s the not knowing part which is hard to accept - not knowing how he really was.”

Schizophrenia is a complex, mental health problem, which can affect a person’s thinking, feelings and behaviour.

Tony, of Boxfield Road, grew up in rural Yorkshire in the 1970s, when little was understood about the illness

His father was regularly treated with ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), which had many side-effects, such as memory loss.

His father, who had been a farm contractor and ran his own farm, could no longer hold down a job and had to sign on for sickness benefits.

Tony said: “People couldn’t see anything wrong with him and thought he was lazy. They seemed to blame him for being the way he was rather than thinking ‘what’s he going through, what’s his problem?

“The only person who really knows what it’s like is the person suffering from that condition.

“People have more empathy with physical illnesses, but mental illness can be just as debilitating.”

He said how he saw his father crying once because of his illness.

He said: “He didn’t show much emotion or talk about his illness a great deal.

“But I remember seeing him crying one time, I think, which was quite unusual for him.

“He said he couldn’t get rid of the voices and he looked genuinely frightened.”

But his father’s schizophrenia impacted on the whole family.

“My mother stuck with him and basically looked after him,” Tony said.

“She bought into one deal and ended up with something else.

“He became very suspicious and possessive.

“Once she went out shopping and when she came back from work, she found him sitting in the cupboard under the stairs, waiting for her.”

Tony is now taking part in a walk along the Axe River to raise money for Rethink, the leading national mental health membership charity, which works to help people affected by severe mental illness and recover a better quality of life.

l Around one in 100 people will experience schizophrenia in the course of a lifetime.

l Symptoms include hallucinations, such as hearing voices. They may also hold false beliefs – thinking they are being watched, for example.

l Sufferers may become uncharacteristically hostile to members of the family and speak in a way that seems illogical.

l For more information on Rethink, visit