Recovery is Real: Patient-Turned-Mentor Shares Story of Hope and Offers Support to Others

Howard Trachtman
Howard Trachtman

Howard Trachtman can serve as a role model to us all. He lives to tell the tale of an incredible journey of recovery from schizoaffective disorder. Finding proper medication was key to regaining his life, and he has spent the last few years inspiring and helping others regain their lives as a peer mentor and support group leader in the Greater Boston area.

He encourages others and believes that “Recovery is REAL and people with mental illness can recover! We are people first and can and do deserve a good quality of life.”

“I believe that Recovery is REAL and that people with mental illness can recover! We are people first and can and do deserve a good quality of life.”

If there is ever any doubt that recovery is possible, we can all be inspired by the story of Howard Trachtman. The extremely gifted Howard was just 16-years-old when he entered MIT to study artificial intelligence and management and build robots. Two years into the program, he had his first psychotic break. He explains, “In 1983 I was up all night at the artificial intelligence laboratory. I decided I needed to flee and to see my parents…. I was having many strange thoughts, and was afraid to board the next plane. My bizarre behavior was noticed, and the police brought me to a crisis center.”

He recounts the next series of difficult events: “They asked if I heard voices, and I was put into mechanical restraints and injected with Haldol. Luckily, they called my parents who flew up and then they discharged me…. Shortly after getting home, I walked out barefoot looking for a Bible. I was soon hospitalized for three weeks.”

After what appeared to be a stabilization, Howard returned to school, but soon after found himself “homeless and lost a temporary job I had at a computer company.” The next few years would find Howard in and out of various hospitals, struggling to find stability. Finding the right medication became the essential tool Howard needed to regain his life. He explains, “My recovery really took off when I started a new medication and discovered the mental health recovery movement around the same time. I was quickly mentored as a leader, learned about community organizing and developed skills in chairing meetings and facilitating support groups.”

Not only has Howard found stability in his life, but he has gone on to be a peer mentor to others in recovery from mental illness. He is currently the co-executive director of the Metro Boston Recovery Learning Community (MBRLC), co-founder and executive director of the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Boston Consumer Advocacy Network (NAMI GB-CAN). He also participates in a ‘warmline’, a peer-run telephone support line staffed by those who have experienced the challenges of living with mental illness.

Support is essential to recovery, and Howard encourages people to “learn as much as possible on websites, books and from mental health organizations.” As for his own support system, he says: “My mom and dad have been my biggest supporters. I talk to my mom every day... I continue to get help from my local community mental health center. Also, my girlfriend has been a great supporter of me.” Howard also appreciates that it is not only the mentally ill that are in need of support: “If you are a peer, attend peer support groups; if you are a family member find other family members to support you. I try to bring hope to people.”

Howard believes the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation funds the science needed for cures: “As an artificial intelligence researcher I was very interested in how the brain works. We have learned much, and I am hopeful that new research will lead to better treatments with fewer side effects, such as weight gain.” Howard believes that science and support are the keys to recovery, and has a message for all who are affected by mental illness: “I believe that recovery is REAL and that people with mental illness can recover! We are people first and can and do deserve a good quality of life.”


Article comments

Howrd, thank you for your story, my son is battling the clutches of mental illness. Your story is uplifting and offers a ray of light and hope. Be blessed and may you continue to recover with the love and support of family and friends.

You are welcome. Email me at if you would like my help.


Thank you for sharing....many people need to hear of victorious recovery! I do hope you found the Bible and read of Jesus' salvation plan!

Babette, Thank you, thank you, for noticing that Howard had been pursuing a Bible. This is the way Christ Jesus speaks to us in this season of grace in history. The Lord God has shepherded me to have the right meds and to trust Him alone for recovery. He has blessed His believing ones with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). Praise Him!

Just said hi there()

Well done Howard, i have rcovered after 8 years with what would be called conversion disorder. It is tough but we know we have keeping moving on and looking ahead.

Glad you are recovered. Contact me at if you want to connect.


Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. With your permission, I would very much like to share this story of recovery with the persons served at the place I work. I am a Peer Specialist at Eliot Community Human Services' Respite in Lynn, MA. I want to ask your permission before sharing your recovery story. I facilitate a Recovery Group every Monday here at the Respite. I too believe that Recovery is Real! My last time in hospital for severe depression was six and one-half years ago.

We met at the Boston Resource Center, and at recovery-oriented peer events.

Many thanks! Peace,

Chuck O'Leary, cps

Yes, I remember meeting you a few times as well.

Feel free to share my recovery story.

Let me know if you'd like me to come and do a presentation.


my son was force to leave his home, because his neighbor would complaint to the policeman about him reading his bible to loud the houses are not very close in lagrange il. he is suffing with mental ill,

Thanks, Howard, your message is inspiring. My son will not use medications so he is suffering a lot. It's hard to know what I can do to help him. I wish he could get involved with peers, but he is not comfortable with them.

Hi! I have skitzo-effective. I beleive in recovery from mental illness. I am a facilitater and do presentations in front of groups. I have a great life. I raise money for NAMI(National Alliance of mntal health) Over 5 years I've raised $20,000.00 fo the cause.
Four years ago I joined Weight Watchers weighing 252lbs. At this time I've lost 63pounds. I feel great and eat right too. Eating right and excercise. Love to play tennis 2 times a week. .This year I took part in a 3 mile NAMI walk along the Charles River in Boston.
Today I have a round table of support. I've been working for 22 years
with Shaws Supermarket in the Meat Department. I'm surrounded with family, friends co-workers, people at church. I go to 3 prayer groups a week. Also my cat, "bud" is part of my recovery too. I can go on but this is my recovery and have not been hospitalized for 24 years. I must be doing someting right!


Some people can recover, some experience remissions, and some, through no lack of trying, continue to suffer. To use a single inspiring anecdote provides an unbalanced perspective. Spontaneous remission of psychiatric symptoms sometimes occurs, but, statistically, and particularly for disorders that may involve psychosis, treatment offers a better chance at a better quality of life. That's very different from recovery being possible for everyone, a claim which has no data with which to back it up.

You say you have recovered? Are we to assume by your claims that you no longer require medication?

Dear Howard,
I have heard and read several inspiring stories of recovery; those who spoke have battled with their illness for many years. Their stories gave us hope, and the endurance to support our son,....his illness was so acute at times (periodic) that he had trouble stepping out of the house, part-take in recovery programs which he did try. We hoped our son would endure (he was voluntarily taking his medication, several in fact over seven years since his eighteenth birthday, resisting each one in time), this April he lost his battle during on impulsive moment of self-harm...his last words were free, fly , bird , from pain. He had no desire to end his life as some would suppose but to stop the agony, pain, turmoil that he was experiencing on and off typically worst in the evening. This journey of hell is not easy, and someday I hope medical scientists break the back of mental illness, its worst than cancer; losing your faculties and being tormented by negative thoughts, a shear biological torture.

Dear Howard,
Do you believe that faith in God attributed to your healing. I have schizoaffective and have been seeking God diligently and it seems to be helping me. Although the illness seems to fight against my efforts.

Howard, you are an inspiration.
Do you ever visit the UK?
Kell (Bristol - UK)

Howard I am 16 turning 17 next month and I feel that you could really help me I do not get on the computer much because I am not allowed to because I struggle with going to school because of my mental illnesses please email me at
I don't want to say that my life is absolutely horrible but if you email me I can explain

Hi Howard,
The work you have done and are involved in is really good for the community and i hope you never let Nay Sayers get you down. I have seen figures that 50% or so person with schizophrenia do get to have a something of a successful life. Sounds like the work you do keeps you busy and gives suffering people inspiration even if it is just to have a good day today. The support you provide people with keeping nami running in the Boston area is good as well. I think someone has the idea that he is not dependent on something, food, white sugar, cigarettes, beer, the list goes on and on. I too have schizo affective and i am relatively well. I found it is hard to suffer and harder still is to be discounted by society.

My daughter was just diagnosed with Schiz.affective at age 36. Can you please tell me what medications were helpful in your recovery? Was it a single medication or combination?

Dear Howard,

Do you think an alien from another planet helped to steam clean your brain?


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