Tanya Frank’s son Zach has lived with mental illness since he was a teenager. But after years journeying through the traditional healthcare system, could radical alternatives save him from an endless cycle of hospital stays and drugs?

There are nights when I wake up and, in the disorientation of those first conscious moments, I am right back there. Los Angeles, 2009. Winter. Zach has entered my room, perched on the edge of my bed, and begged: “Mum. What is going to happen to me? You must know.”

I see him in all his anguish – my younger son in his last teenage year. He has just been discharged from hospital after having what the doctors had called a psychotic break, when he thought that his friends weren’t his friends but were out to harm him, that our house was bugged and that helicopters were instruments of surveillance, trained on him. Years before, it would have been called a nervous breakdown. I don’t like either term much, but I think the connotations of a nervous breakdown feel more apt. It was this sense of nervousness that I witnessed on the night I first took my boy to the psychiatric hospital.

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