Pictured here: Jake and Anne, Christmas 2012. Jake was arrested and incarcerated just three months later.
Jake was released in December 2015. They were able to celebrate the holidays together for the first time in three years. Anne and Jake are pictured here with Jake's younger brother Luke.
Anne Slease has been a middle school English teacher for over twenty years. Though she's written many short stories and essays for her students, it wasn't until her own personal life took an unexpected turn that she considered writing for a broader audience.
Just weeks after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Anne began writing about her troubled relationship with her older son Jake, then 20, on a blog she called Still Hopeful Mom. It had been two years since he walked out her door refusing to accept his mental illness.
Over the next few months, Anne wrote their story beginning in 2010 when Jake, then 18, first showed signs of his illness. He was treated as an outpatient in a mental health facility, came home with a handgun that he'd purchased from a fellow patient, and intended to use it to end his own life. Instead, his younger brother, 13, found the gun and nearly shot himself with it, thinking it was a toy.
With her blog, Anne vented her frustrations with the mental health care system. She documented Jake's struggles with community college classes, part time jobs and substance abuse. She wrote about the stigma that kept Jake from accepting his diagnosis, the same stigma that kept her writing under the pseudonym Still Hopeful Mom. And she admitted her fear of losing her son for good. She expected she'd receive a phone call one day that would either say, "Your son has been arrested," or "Your son is dead."
In March of 2013, that phone call came. Jake had been arrested. He was incarcerated for two and a half years for felony charges. Though he wasn't able to get help in time to avoid very serious consequences, both Jake and Anne are grateful that he is alive today. Today he takes medication for bipolar disorder, he has educated himself on his condition, and he is optimistic about his future.
Today Anne is a mental health advocate, active with her local NAMI chapter where she has spoken at events ranging from police officer trainings to candlelight vigils. Recently, she was honored with the 2015 NAMI Delaware Volunteer of the Year Award. She writes for the International Bipolar Foundation as well as other mental health-related websites while still maintaining her own blog, StillHopefulMom.com. She and her younger son Luke were recently part of a documentary called Semper Est Sperare: Always Hope, a film about mental illness and its stigma by director Tim Hill. She was also invited to work with Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing violence through education programs such as "Say Something" and "Start with Hello." She began her work as a National Promise Presenter in January 2016.
Anne's first young adult novel, A Brother's Oath , tells the story of Dylan Truman, a high school freshman, who witnesses his basketball star older brother Cole spiral into the depths of mental illness following a serious knee injury. Dylan must decide if a brother's oath is worth keeping. This is Anne's first novel, which was inspired by real events that took place in her home during her son Jake's high school years. She wanted to explore the way mental illness impacts more than just the person diagnosed, it impacts loved ones, too. She also hopes to expose young people to the realities of mental illness and encourage anyone affected by it to find the help they need.
Anne teaches English full time and directs middle and high school theatre productions. She lives in Delaware with her husband and her two sons, Jake and Luke.
|Anne Slease - Author & Mental Health Advocate||
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