Akiko Poltanowich, Parent, Michio Kusama, PH.D. Counselor

I keep asking myself how can this happen to me? I have two children with schizophrenia. My son is in Napa State Hospital and my daughter lives in a board and care home.  My husband died after being paralyzed for 20 years. I feel so alone and isolated. I no longer have friends. How could they understand? At General Hospital there is a support group for families of the mentally ill. There I am with people who understand.

Living in a small Japanese-speaking community where one’s identity is easily known, one needs courage to come out into the open and reveal having a child with mental illness. Mrs. Paltanowich is such a person. Courageous and dedicated, she has been fighting to improve the conditions of the mentally ill for years.
Michio Kusama, Ph.D.,Counselor




I  became mentally ill after I became religious and after I read a book called “The Koran.” Having suppressed my vision of being chosen, I became, for some time, afraid of going to Hell Fire to the point where I burned myself intentionally.

Everyone had told me it was useless to bother with Doug; they were wrong. Trying to reach him was the greatest challenge of my life; succeeding was the greatest triumph.

Gilbert Canedo, Client

Gilbert Canedo, Client


After my discharge from the Navy,  I was walking around mentally ill. I lived in the streets and later at the VA Hospital for almost a year where I slept on a heating grate. When it rained I went inside the hospital and hung out incognito. I guess after a while they thought I was a patient. With the help of section 8, I am now able to rent a room in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. I treasure this security. I have benefitted from being homeless. I do not take anything for granted anymore.



Schizophrenia affects approximately one in every hundred people. One of the major hurdles we cleared in modern understanding is the recognition that it is a brain disease. It was previously believed that schizophrenia had an inexorable downhill course, although now we know that, with treatment, some patients can regain functioning in certain areas. Unfortunately 10 to 30% of people with schizophrenia do not respond adequately to standard treatments. A major aim of my research is to develop new treatments for this minority.

© Lisa Kanemoto 2015