A MESSAGE FROM CHRIS AND SANDY HAAS
We are seeking a writer for a story that needs to be told, one with elements of Girl Interrupted, The Queen's Gambit, A Beautiful Mind, Sybil, and A Star is Born but with a heartbreaking ending.
We are the parents of the late, young, multimedia artist Ohana Haas. Hannah is her real name and what we will always remember her by, but Ohana was a special word for her and she chose it as her stage name (Both because there is another young and very gifted artist out there called Hannah Haas and because “ohana” means family, something extremely important to Hannah).
Hannah was what one might call a “Girl, Interrupted.” Some such young people eventually make it through, but our Hannah did not. We lost her on April 20, 2020 at the age of 20 to heart failure, caused by an eating disorder, driven by longstanding emotional and mental health issues.
Only months before, she released her debut album, called "The Broken." Our sweet girl, like so many other young people who struggle, are just too "Broken" to fix. She fought so hard, and we, as a family, went to every length imaginable to try and help her get well.
What causes a seemingly well adapted, extremely talented, beautiful, brilliant girl only thirteen years old to become trapped in a seven-year spiral of despair despite having the best professional mental health treatment available? Was it the alleged sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a still-unidentified individual when she was six? Was the abuse real? Was her brain just genetically or chemically different? Was it her multiple hospitalizations at a young age for pneumonia that traumatized her? What caused her multiple personality disorder? (She had at least 8 documented alters, each with their own unique characteristics and agendas). Was her brilliance and musical/artistic ability somehow tied to her mental health issues?
Why were none of the treatments successful? What kept her “Broken” unlike the girl in “Girl, Interrupted?” Hannah had seven years of psychotherapy, trauma therapy, eating disorder treatment, every class of psychiatric drugs, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), medical marijuana and eventually ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and ketamine treatments. She had long term residential stays at McLean (Harvard’s famed psychiatric hospital – perhaps best known for famous patients James Taylor and Sylvia Plath, and the setting for “Girl, Interrupted”), Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT and several other hospitals and residential programs, numerous ER visits in addition to life coaches.
While Hannah’s story is certainly about mental health, it is overwhelmingly the story of life that we all share--the struggle to find meaning in our existence and a way to persevere in the face of adversity. Hannah fought so bravely against her illness. Her multiple personality disorder infiltrated her life such that depending on which alter was “in charge” in a given moment she may not have remembered what happened an hour ago or 10 years ago.
In one of her journals, Hannah wrote “I am trapped in my mind with the voices. They won’t let me speak” Flashbacks tormented her on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
As her conditions worsened Hannah became more and more aware that she was losing control over her mind. This knowledge and inability to quiet her mind tortured her and dominated her daily life.
In her suffering Hannah somehow found meaning, and that meaning was helping others who also suffered from mental health issues. After her passing, through numerous messages to us and still to Hannah (via social media and her phone) we have learned much more about the many people whom Hannah had touched. She met people at different treatment venues and continued to remain in contact with them and help them with their struggles, which also helped her mitigate her own pain on some level.
The realization that she was gifted in supporting others, that her music was beautiful, relatable and helpful to so many, and that she did have a role in this world--and a big one in creating and healing herself and others--gave her a level of strength and hope that she had never before known. Even we, her parents, had little idea of the enormous impact she had on so many people.
Following is a small sampling from the numerous messages we have received:
"You did not leave this world unnoticed, angel."
"Hannah and I met at McLean Hospital, instantly we became friends. Honestly, I could never have gotten through treatment and stayed afloat without her friendship. We were close for a while and she impacted my life greatly, and I owe a lot of my stability to her. She was the sweetest and most genuine person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and she deserved only the best life. Hannah, you were and are such an inspiration. Her music is her gift that keeps on giving, she is always with us helping people who can resonate with her songs and hear hope in her voice."
"My first day at Silver Hill was so scary. I’d never been to a hospital and they’d taken my stuffed animal. I was placed with you to sleep at night, and there blossomed our friendship. We both left stronger than we came in. Since leaving you’ve been an unwavering source of support for me. You are the epitome of a caring, kind, effervescent soul, and it warms my grieving heart to know that you really were improving. Thank you for always being there for me, for everyone. I love you always."
"Sitting with Hannah while she played her guitar and sang used to bring me so much peace just like listening to her music on Spotify does now."
Hannah’s artist notes on her album
“The Broken” clearly express her goal:
"My hope in releasing this recording is to share my experience with the world, and hopefully in doing so, possibly give some validation and indirect support to those who have also been broken like me, just like other artists have done for me over the years."
Hannah’s story is one that absolutely needs to be told. A story of life and meaning. A beautiful, brilliant, compassionate, deeply sensitive soul who even in her suffering found value and solace in helping others. In her short life she lived more and touched more people than most of us do in a lifetime. And she continues to do so, though no longer with us.
We are seeking a writer with the skill, general subject matter interest and compassion to do justice to her story and bring it to life. As parents suffering from this heartbreaking loss, we must now try to find meaning in it, and we will honor her by finding meaning the same way she found meaning- in getting her story, music and poetry out to help others just like her find peace in their hearts and purpose in their lives.
We invite YOU to join us in fulfilling Hannah’s dream to get her story, music, art and poetry out there to hopefully help other troubled young people and inspire them through treatment, art, music, anything...to help reduce the stigma and help those suffering from mental /emotional health issues. Hannah also believed that by getting her story and works out she could help stimulate the discussion of mental health, create new treatment models, and, most of all, do everything possible to not let those who need help fall through the cracks. We'll never achieve perfection in this regard, of course, but we can do better than what exists now.
Hannah’s story is particularly unique because her struggle is so prolifically documented and expressed in so many ways- music, art, prose, journals, poetry and seven years of complete and extensive medical records. Reading her journals you learn firsthand what it is like to suffer from mental illness--the guilt, the shame, the pain, the confusion and above all the hope that something…anything…any new treatment, religion, astrology, crystals, changing hair colors or makeup or dreaming of becoming a mermaid (a big and sweet focus of hers) might ease the pain. All of her writings, works, art, medical records, music, social media, and contacts have been organized and a timeline has been developed to facilitate her story being told.
Hannah kept detailed journals from age thirteen to her passing, constituting over 3000 pages. The documents journal her daily and even hourly struggle to keep herself alive and bring to life what it is to suffer from mental illness.
Hannah was on her way to becoming an accomplished musical artist. She has a hauntingly angelic voice and only started writing lyrics and melodies at 16 when her psychiatrist had suggested that she try writing her own music as a means of therapy.
Without lessons, Hannah learned to play the guitar and was able to compose lyrics and melodies in her head and then record them in her garage studio. Her music is a witness and legacy for her immense pain. [“I know what it’s like to live in what feels like eternal darkness, and creating “The Broken” with my amazing team has been a beam of hope that now shines through me”]
As previously mentioned, her debut album The Broken was completed and released with the assistance of an all-star musical, artistic and production team at the end of 2019, but she never had the chance to promote it in earnest before her passing just a few months later. But it lives on and will only grow better and more poignant with age.
In addition to the tracks she and her team chose for her album, we have discovered a "vault" of over 35 songs that she wrote and recorded, original lyrics for an additional 70 songs, and another 30 recorded cover songs.
We've posthumously remixed and released so far two of her original home-recorded songs from the vault as well as a remix of a cover song she recorded in her home studio. There will be much more to come.
POETRY, ARTWORK AND SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
Hannah wrote over 300 poems and created numerous pieces of artwork, most of which demonstrated her pain and occasionally her hope.
She had hundreds of social media posts on multiple platforms.
Hannah was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, as well as Bulimia. Her medical treatment and diagnosis are well documented in the over the thousands of pages of medicals records and treatment notes.
Find Hannah’s album cover, artist notes and lyrics here
Visit Hannah’s homepage here
Listen to Hannah’s songs on YouTube here
Watch slide show of Hannah's life here
If you are interested in further evaluating or considering this project, we would be happy to provide access to additional information and to discuss.
Please contact us at 201-953-3460 or firstname.lastname@example.org