"HAYWIRE" AIRS FRIDAY, MARCH 12 ON ABC NEWS' "20/20"
Jay Schadler with an Eye-Opening and Dramatic Report on Children Living with Schizophrenia
On Friday, March 12, ABC News' "20/20" reports on the challenges facing families whose young children are suffering with severe mental illness. ABC News correspondent Jay Schadler shares the stories of three girls in California in this intensely emotional, hour-long report. "Haywire" profiles seven-year-old Jani Schofield, a beautiful blonde child who loves to swim and play, but has been diagnosed with schizophrenia -- her hallucinations command her to act dangerously and violently, like telling her to jump off a high building or to hurt her baby brother � and Rebecca Stancil, a precocious nine-year-old who has already tried to commit suicide, as well as Brenna Wohlenberg, a 13-year-old who loves to play with her dogs but fears she'll hurt them or her little sisters because of her psychotic behavior, some of which is caught on tape. "20/20" spent time inside the homes of these children to see what life is like for them. Their families kept video diaries showing the daily struggles, breakdowns and the overwhelming strain on both personal relationships and finances. "Haywire" focuses on a disorder that is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, and reports on the treatments and new medical understanding, FRIDAY, MARCH 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
With only one in 30,000 children diagnosed with schizophrenia in this country, it's a rare disorder, but one that leaves parents and siblings constantly struggling to maintain some sense of normalcy. "Haywire" begins with the story of Jani Schofield. Her parents, Michael and Susan, knew their daughter was different from the time she was a baby. They recall how she would stay awake most of the night and focus intently on ceilings and walls, seemingly staring at something no one else could see. Jani's mental illness has caused a tremendous strain on the family; Michael and Susan now live apart in separate apartments � but all in an effort to keep the family safe and together. "20/20" also introduces viewers to the mother of nine-year-old Rebecca Stancil who talks candidly about one of the lowest points in her daughter's struggle with mental illness, the day Rebecca, only eight, tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists with a hairclip. Rebecca herself tells Schadler in terrifying detail her thoughts about how she could kill her mother with a chainsaw. And in another family, "20/20" cameras capture Brenna Wohlenberg during some of her psychotic episodes, and witness her parents making the heart-wrenching decision to place their eldest daughter in the hospital for the safety of the other children, as well as their frantic � and all too familiar � search for a bed at a local hospital. After many calls to their insurance provider and hospitals, they're finally able to secure a spot for Brenna in UCLA's adolescent psychiatric unit.
The constant day-to-day frustrations and challenges of living with and providing for a child with schizophrenia take a toll on all of these families. Their reality is almost unimaginable. But through all the tears and screams, violence and outbursts, there's tremendous and unconditional love for these children who are fighting inner-demons that control every aspect of their lives.
"Haywire" is produced by an Emmy Award-winning team led by correspondent Jay Schadler. The majority of the footage was shot by a team of producers including ABC News producer Claire Weinraub. Her past reports have included Diane Sawyer's award-winning hours on Camden NJ and the children of Appalachia. Elizabeth Vargas and Chris Cuomo are the co-anchors of "20/20." David Sloan is the executive producer.