JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Like the flip of a coin, it could have gone either way.
"It's just very painful. It's painful for me to see in him. And it's painful for me," said Paul Barnes.
Identical twins, best friends since birth, Colin and Nicholas Barnes were star athletes and popular at Fernandina Beach High School until Freshman year, when Nicholas started to pull away.
A year later he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
"The most difficult words I ever heard from Colin were after Nicholas had been diagnosed, and it had been 6 or 7 months, Colin said to me, I want my brother back," said Paul.
Paul's wife Nancy found out she was pregnant with twins in the '80's, doctors told them her sons had a 50-50 chance of having a mental illness -- just like her.
Those odds turned out exactly right.
"When I first found out that Nicholas had a mental illness, I went downstairs, and locked myself in the bathroom and cried for two hours. Because I knew what I had been through with Nancy for so many years, and how tough it was. And I was just afraid, I didn't know if I could do it again," Colin said.
Mental illnesses like schizophrenia are often hereditary, like diabetes or heart disease.
But people aren't scared of their neighbor with heart disease.
"We had a neighbor who told us if Nicholas came around, he would get his gun out and he would shoot him," he said.
It's that stigma, that sense that he would never belong that scared Nancy.
"I blamed myself. That I gave it to him. And at times, I still blame myself for it," said his mother, Nancy.
In 10 years, Nicholas has been in 13 different psychiatric hospitals.
He finally found some relief at Starting Point Behavioral Health in Yulee.
When Paul and Nancy have tried to manage his illness, and hers alone, but many times it's too much to bear.
"I heard yelling and screaming and ran up the stairs. Nicholas had a knife and was trying to slit his wrists. Nancy was covered with blood. Blood was all over their hands. The knife was in their hands. And Nancy was trying to get it away from Nicholas," said Paul.
Nancy says she understands why he did it, she has felt that way herself.
Which is why she's even more determined to get him the help he needs.
"I look at Nick, and say it's ok, I understand it because I've been there. I've been where you are. But you're going to get better because we're going to find the right medication, we're going to find the help that you need," said Nancy.
And as long as there's a chance.
"You can never ever give up, you have to keep on fighting, and keep on hoping," said Nancy.
For more mental health resources visit Mental Health America of Northeast Florida.
First Coast News