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Contest Entries

Jani's at the Mercy of her Mind

Entrants: Shari Roan

Affiliation: Los Angeles Times

Metro Newspapers

Year: 2009

Place: Second Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

This story describes the efforts of a family to obtain an accurate diagnosis, satisfactory medical care and outpatient services for their severely mentally ill 6-year-old daughter. Following the family over nine months, the stories depict the devastating symptoms of the illness, the terrible toll on the family, the challenges for medical professionals in diagnosing and treating a rare case of psychotic illness in such a young child and the lack of outpatient services.

Judges' comments: This in-depth chronicle of a family's struggle to find the best care for a 6-year-old girl with schizophrenia highlights the best and worst of American mental health care. The author constructs a powerful narrative that takes us deep into the chaotic and psychotic world of Jani Schofield, who appears to have been born with schizophrenia. Roan capitalizes on her long-standing professional relationship with UCLA officials to gain rare access to the hospital's child psychiatric unit, allowing her to record the struggle to figure out what's wrong with this brilliant but very disturbed little girl. The Schofield family also let Roan review the child's medical records, providing a window into a private and public mental health system that is by turns deeply caring and frightfully insensitive. Roan picks just the right scenes and her writing is superbly crafted, synthesizing the complicated policy issues with the tale of a young family that is splitting apart at the seams trying to save Jani.

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