Charleston man featured in new documentary about mental illness

March 5, 2017 | By Lauren Sausser

Lloyd Hale doesn’t mind sharing his story.

In fact, the 36-year-old Charleston man talks comfortably about his long struggle with schizophrenia, about murder, about the time he spent in the state’s mental hospital, about his transformation and the hopes and dreams he holds for his children.

In fact, he shared all this and more with The Post and Courier in 2012.

But a new audience heard Hale’s story in late February when the documentary “Beyond Silence” premiered in Los Angeles. The 30-minute film, now available online, features three adults, including Hale, who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Celebrity Demi Lovato, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was the project’s executive producer. It was financed by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers drugs to treat some mental illnesses.

“These stories really stick out to me,” Lovato told The Huffington Post. “I’m very excited that people are going to be able to hear about their journeys.”

A spokeswoman for the film said the project does not endorse any medications or specific treatment plans and specific medications are not mentioned in the documentary.

Hale said he wanted to participated to speak openly about mental illness and eliminate the stigma associated with his disease.

“(The film premiere) was just mind-blowing,” Hale said. “I feel honored and blessed to be a part of it.”

The documentary also features a woman from Brooklyn, New York, and a man from Asheville, North Carolina, who have struggled with mental illness.

In the film, Hale said the stigma surrounding these diseases is rooted in our reluctance to discuss mental illness openly.

“We just don’t talk about it. That’s the part that I think disconnects us,” he said. “My goal is to help folks understand that we’re not that different.”

Hale said he started hearing voices in his head when he turned 13. In 1996, he hallucinated that his mother asked him to kill her boyfriend. He committed murder and was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was spent about two years in county jail and another 22 months in the state mental hospital in Columbia.

“It’s not like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card,” he said. “It’s kind of like I’m sentenced to treatment.”

Now, Hale, a husband and father, works full-time as a certified peer support counselor at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center. His passion is cycling. “It’s therapy for me,” he said.

Each year, Hale organizes a 210-mile bike ride from Charleston to Spartanburg to raise awareness about “severe and persistent mental illness,” often called SPMI. Ride 4 SPMI will be held in late May, he said.

The most poignant moments in the film show Hale at home with his children.

“I just want to be a good husband, a good dad,” he said. “And to be able to provide something outstanding for them. That is my dream.”