Ohana Haas - The Tragic Death of a Promising Talent - Pt 1

The Pain Is Real

Ohana Haas never felt more alive or optimistic than when she recorded her EP, The Broken

That musical odyssey had begun, paradoxically, when she was struggling with a profoundly deep depression.  It was then that her psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, called Christian Josi, his friend and an accomplished music producer, and asked him to listen to her voice.

Josi initially tried to put Dr. Ablow off.  “You might like her music, Keith,” he said, “and I know how much you encourage your patients to follow their dreams, but I have to focus on that one out of ten thousand artists who could really break out.  I’ll listen to one song, but please don’t tell Ohana that I agreed to.  I don’t want to give anyone false hope.”

When Josi listened to one of  Ohana’s songs, however, he couldn’t help but listen to another.  He “saw in those rough takes,” he says, “a beautiful artist who was creating an eloquent portrait of a life that few can or might understand.” 

Josi agreed to produce an EP album with Ohana and recruited world class studio musicians to accompany her.  By the end of that arduous, but magical process, he told Ohana that she had won his heart and would win the hearts of many, many listeners.  “You’re that one in ten thousand singers who can go all the way,” he wrote to her. 

Production Manager on the album, Tino Passante, who has worked with everyone from Paul McCartney to Lady Gaga as the head of Avatar Studios, says: "Ohana's angelic voice, honesty and vulnerable lyrics would have resonated with a large segment of the population, far beyond the avid music listener."

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Tragically, however, Ohana’s days of recording at Pyramid Studios in New York were to be her first and last professional recording experience.  Her life ended abruptly at age 20. 

Ohana’s music, however, lives on.  More and more people are discovering her rare combination of talent as a singer who wrote and performed many original, profoundly moving songs. 

Ohana’s life story is the stuff of movies.  She was born in New York City.  Soon after her birth, her family moved to the New Jersey suburbs.  It was there that Ohana, who was extremely shy, attended a Montessori school.  She secretly began taking lessons with the school choir’s vocal coach and then, at 11, shocked her parents by not only participating in a school concert, but delivering an incredible solo of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that brought people in the audience to tears.

Ohana then asked for more advanced lessons with someone who taught operatic singing, a request her parents happily granted. 

A little more than a year later, however, Ohana became withdrawn and depressed. Her close friend informed her mother that the situation had become serious. Ohana had starting self-harming. She was cutting herself, displacing the overwhelming sadness she felt with physical pain. 

Many parents resist seeking mental health treatment for their children, but this was never true of the Haas family. Her mother. Sandra, made an appointment with a child therapist the next day. Sandra had no idea what had brought on Ohana’s self-destructive thoughts; she could only guess that it might be the soul-withering comparisons so many tweens, especially girls, make between their own lives and what they see on social media. 

As we now know, Facebook’s internal research found Instagram was having a destructive effect in the lives of many teenagers. 

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Ohana’s first bout with depression and self-harming was the beginning of a long journey that would continue throughout Ohana’s adolescence and become ever more horrific. She required inpatient treatment more than thirty times, was placed on dozens of different medications, received every advanced treatment psychiatry could offer, but still struggled with terrifying symptoms of dissociative identity disorder, an eating disorder, and self-harm.

The only real source of relief that Ohana could depend upon was her music. At one of the residential facilities where she stayed not long after the onset of her mental health issues, her doctor noticed that she often picked up one of the guitars available to patients and played cover songs. Seeing how Ohana struggled with expressing her emotions in therapy, he suggested that she write her own songs to gain self-understanding. 

At first this seemed like jumping over the moon to Ohana, but once she sat down with a pen, a notepad and a guitar, she found, as she says in the liner notes to her EP, “everything made perfect sense. I could feel all the energy of those negative thoughts and feelings flowing out of me into the music I was creating. This quickly became my outlet whenever I needed to safely experience difficult emotions.” 


She continued to compose, at first using the app, Garage Band. Seeing the good this was doing their daughter, her parents helped her set up a studio in their garage, with all the needed equipment. She spent countless hours writing and recording, creating a treasure trove of more than 30 songs currently being mastered, lyrics to dozens more songs, deeply moving artwork and poems currently being organized for publication.  

Whenever she needed another break and returned to a residential mental health facility, she regularly performed for her fellow patients. Sometimes her mother wondered if she asked to go back into hospitals (including the famed McLean Hospital and Silver Hill Hospital) in order to perform. Her singing made an enormous impression on her fellow patients. To this day the family receives numerous communications from  those who were in the hospital with Ohana and found her singing tremendously helpful in their recovery. 

The following two statements are testimonies to how much good Ohana’s musical gifts and her caring presence meant to her fellow patients. 

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…Thank you for always being there for me, for everyone. I love you always.

[At the hospital] Hannah and I instantly 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.

Despite her creative outlet and her new friendships, Ohana continued to suffer.  She made attempts on her life several times Her doctors, bewildered by the increasing complexity of her irrational behavior, began to wonder aloud if she were suffering from psychosis. Could her condition have evolved into schizophrenia? 

Ohana began ascribing her suicide attempts and other irrational behavior to “alters.” She did not want to starve herself, disfigure herself further, or commit suicide, but at times an alternative personality would take over and force her to do these things. 

She had Dissociative Identity Disorder—what used to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It was time for what many claim is the very best mental health facility anywhere, McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. McLean seemed like Ohana’s best hope for regaining her health. How could this young woman, a shining light in so many ways, not have a future? 


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please make use of the following resources.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): Teens and Young Adults nami.org Helpline 800-950-6264

NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) nationaleatingdisorders.org 800-931-2237

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health)  nimhinfo@nih.gov 866-615-6464

Pain-2-Power, The Ablow Center pain-2-power.com 978-462-1125

HHS Resources to Support Adolescent Mental Health hhs.gov 877-696-6775

Save the Music Foundation savethemusic.org 212-846-4391

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