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A Tribute to Jonathan James Dornner

Welcome to my personal web page for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of all those affected by mental illness. I have created this fundraising page because NAMI, and the work they do will help people like my brother, Jon.

Donating to me through this page is easy, fast and secure.

Any amount will make a difference for NAMI.

NAMI and I appreciate your donation and we hope that it will help people like Jon from suffering in the future.

Thank you for your support.

Jonathan 'Jon' James Dornner was born February 17th 1982.

He was sick as a baby but grew healthy as he got a little older. Jon and his older sister Sarah were always close, and played a lot of adventure games together as little kids, antarctic explorers in the snow and pirates of the couch.

Jon grew into a tall and handsome man. He did well in school. He had many friends growing up, but most especially his best friend and next door neighbor Matt. They were inseparable and did everything together, including being on little league teams, coached by Jon's father Donie. Jon was the pitcher and Matt was the catcher. They were adorable! Matt and Jon enjoyed lots of things together, bmx bikes, skateboards, getting into trouble doing super fun things that little boys like to do.

When Jon got to high school he was on the football team and was named lineman of the year. Matt and Jon continued to be the best of friends. They started partying together and had a great time. Jon's parents Brenda and Donie separated during this time, which was very hard on everyone in the family.

Jon was extremely close with his dad always. They would work together on landscaping jobs, fish, make projects, and play guitar (both Donie and Jon were excellent guitar players).

Jon graduated high school after getting into a little bit of trouble and started working on his associates degree at Antelope Valley College. He was doing great, getting straight A's. He was especially interested in criminal law. His professors in that subject said he was the best student they had ever had in that subject. Jon also worked at a Bank data processing facility part time. He lived with his mom Brenda in the house he grew up in and they were very close.

Jon started having a difficult time following a break-up with his girlfriend of five years. He was devastated and barely was able to go on a college archeology trip to Peru. He started having terrible nightmares and drinking more heavily. When he returned things started to be more difficult for Jon. Much later he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which explains his mood swings and self medication with alcohol.

It became clear that Jon had a drinking problem and at the urging of his mom and family he entered a rehab program. He was unable to complete the treatment program, he found the environment too restrictive. His mom Brenda was frightened of his mood swings and drinking, that sometimes led him to say hurtful things that he did not mean. Brenda decided it was best that he not live with her anymore. His best friend Matt offered to take him in, but the drinking and mood swings forced Matt to tell Jon he could not stay there either.

Jon moved in with his dad in Bodfish, CA. Donie wanted Jon to be well and to help him get on his feet. Jon's problem worsened and he was occasionally hurtful to Donie. When Donie had a heart attack Jon was beside himself, it was an awful time. Jon wasn't well enough to take care of his dad, and his dad wasn't well enough to take care of him. Donie died of a heart attack and Jon was there. He tried to resuscitate him but it was too late. This was undoubtedly the worst day in Jon's life.

After Donie's memorial last October, Jon continued to live in his dad's house and was on a roller coaster from recovery to trouble and back again. Everyone had reached out over the years trying to help Jon in various ways. Jon truly wanted to get better and made great strides into sobriety and dealing with his bipolar disorder, only to slip back again. He had a community of friends in Bodish and Lake Isabella. Many different people in the Lake Isabella Alcoholics Anonymous decided to sponsor him and take him under his wing. Repeated relapses made things difficult for his AA friends to continue to support him.

Jon's family made many many attempts to get him help over his years of trouble. In-patient and out patient rehab were attempted, alcoholics anonymous, he was urged to go to a live in program offered by salvation army after many many thousands of dollars were put to programs which proved ineffective. They tried to get adult protective services involved to no avail. After a few run-ins with the law for drunk and disorderly conduct and battery, they hoped he would be kept in jail for a long enough time to sober up, but the charges were always dropped.

Jon tried very very hard to get better. He had many seizures which landed him in the hospital from violent withdrawals from alcohol. His was up against a lot in his fight. Jon's bipolar disorder was on the higher end of the scale. He occasionally heard voices, felt persecuted. He thought that people were out to get him. For years he was scared. He never felt safe and happy. He drank because in his experience this was the only thing that numbed his overwhelming feelings of pain and fear. It is my firm belief that Jon could have recovered with proper treatment. He would have needed careful monitoring of antidepressants and medication, intense therapy, anger management, and life coaching. Tragically, these were things that state and local programs, his health insurance, friends and family could not provide. I believe that there should have been better programs available for him to get well.

Jon's sister Sarah--crushed by failed attempts to get Jon help and tired of phone calls which ended badly because of the mood swings and alcohol--decided it would be better to be pen pals. Jon wrote a beautiful letter expressing how much he wanted to get well and how much he missed and loved his family and friends. He said he promised his dad he would never kill himself, and further that he knew his alcohol consumption was becoming a slow suicide, and he was committed to getting well.

Tragedy struck on the 1 year anniversary of his father's death. Jon's body was found following a fire at the house in Bodfish, CA. While the cause of death is still undetermined, Jon most likely died of an overdose of alcohol and anti-anxiety medication or some combination of prescription drugs. We will never know exactly how it happened. But, we will always know that in his heart, that is not what he intended or wanted. We know the great potential he had to be a man and a citizen of the world. The odds he was up against with his bipolar disorder and dependency were immense, but we all believed (including Jon) that one day he would win the fight. This tragic end is not what anyone wanted. We will hold all of our good memories dear, and know all the good things that Jon could have done.

Personally, I will be an advocate for better mental health care in the future so that this tragic story can be avoided in other families.

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Jonathan James Dornner





This page was created by S. Dornner in honor of Jonathan James Dornner

Given in honor of Jonathan James Dornner

Kathy McIntyre Dail


Brenda Dornner

Our prayer is this tragedy will not happen to another family.We will always miss you my dear son Jon.


Lisa Weg

With all my love and hope for better care of all of our mentally ill. In loving memory of my beautiful nephew Jon Dornner.


Erin Wolfe


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