Treatment Works

These true stories about children in Virginia who have struggled with mental health problems have been provided by those who have helped treat them and by their families.

J. is a 17-year-old girl who had a serious overdose attempt after a bad breakup with her boyfriend. She spent several days in the hospital. She did not want to return to school and could not see any positive aspects of her life. Upon being discharged from the hospital, she immediately began crisis intervention services to help maintain her in school and avoid further hospitalization. She began with services five days a week, then gradually progressed to three days a week. Within 30 days, J. was well enough to attend her prom and graduate from high school. She now attends community college in a different city, while living with her sister and working. J. stated that she “wouldn’t have made it” without the support from the crisis therapist and now feels as though she “can handle anything.” She keeps in touch with the crisis therapist to receive support and reinforcement for the positive choices she is making.
W. is an 18-year-old young man diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to sexual abuse at an early age by multiple neighbors and a sibling. He started intensive in-home services at age 15 because he suffered from severe depression which interfered with his school performance and with his social and home life. He even considered suicide. He received individual cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy for a little over a year in the in-home program. Afterwards, he received continued outpatient therapy and case management with the same clinician. He is now a senior in high school taking Advanced Placement classes with a 3.5 GPA, involved with the school jazz band, Latin Club, a Certified EMT, has an active social life, and is employed part-time. He is applying to Penn State this fall and has career goals of being a doctor.
T. was born to a mother addicted to crack. She began intensive in-home services and psychiatric care beginning at age four to treat her ADHD symptoms of severe hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. At five, she entered public kindergarten, and she was able to be educationally mainstreamed and maintained in her guardian’s home only through the help of these continuing services. In middle school she received the additional services of day treatment. Now in high school, T. receives the less intensive services of case management and outpatient therapy. These supports are helping her to succeed in college preparatory classes and extracurricular activities.
Our son’s mental health issues have been ongoing for the past nine years. He began manifesting some symptoms of depression/anxiety during his sophomore year of high school. While he maintained a strong GPA and participated in a few extracurricular activities, he was depressed, cried frequently, and experienced suicidal ideation. Our journey through the mental health system began with our pediatrician, who prescribed an antidepressant. We soon realized that our son needed more assistance, and during the next several years, he saw several psychiatrists and therapists. We sent our son off to college, believing that appropriate supports were in place. He chose not to access most of them (counseling and medication). We brought our son home from college and began another intensive search for answers. Over a period of time, he has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD, and lastly schizophrenia, due to psychotic thoughts brought on by heavy self-medicating with marijuana. He has been hospitalized once (depression and thought disorder). He is currently living at home and enrolled in college. He is earning straight A’s and we hope that he will graduate within the next year or so. What has made a difference for our son – love, family support (immediate and extended family), persistence, tenacity, good doctors and therapists, patience on our part, and the ability to redefine expectations and goals for ourselves and our son. As parents, we grieved the loss of our formerly “happy-go-lucky” son, and are learning to accept and cope with the reality of our son’s situation. His illness is part of who he is and we are working towards embracing that, but also continuing to assist him in understanding that he is not defined by his mental illness. While our son’s path to independence and adulthood looks very different than what we imagined years ago, we are grateful to everyone who has provided support to him and to us, and we are hopeful that he will be a productive adult and contributor to society.
J. was not meeting his milestones and he had an older sibling with significant special needs. As parents this was quite alarming. After obtaining several evaluations, we learned that J. may be autistic and that he was showing signs of severe developmental delay. Further, he had a severe aversion to touch, leading to his lack of interest in exploring his environment. We went to our locality and explained to them what was occurring. Luckily, we already had contacts and so that greatly simplified the process. J. started receiving therapy at 18 months for developmental milestones, as well as to decrease his aversion to touch. Once he reached 2, he attended a preschool program at our local school on all school days. The program included speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, as well as general education. Just as J. turned 5, we saw a sudden and drastic change. J. began speaking in sentences and he caught up on all of the milestones. J. started kindergarten in a regular class and has continually been an honor roll student. Now a junior in High School, J. is a superb piano player and a member of the National Honor Society. Early, targeted intervention was key to his long term success and lead to reduced costs as no long term services were needed.
Our son M. was a complicated case, everyone agreed. None of the standard protocols worked and even a firm diagnosis of which severe emotional disability we were dealing with was impossible to determine. We just kept covering the same approaches repeatedly with the same non-existent results. We were frustrated and M. was spiraling further and further out of control. Finally, we had a case manager that did not see M. as just a problem to make go away. They really dug in and tried to understand what needs existed and to evaluate what programs and solutions were available. This led to M. having an opportunity to attend school though a private day placement. Even though M. was now in middle school, the private day school believed in the basics. They made sure M. learned to read and do math, and then kept pushing forward to advanced math, foreign language and grade level courses in Science, English, and History. This departure from the normal approach for middle school students opened up a world of opportunity for M. Now a senior in high school, M. is on track to graduate with a standard diploma. M. plans to attend a technical trade school and pursue a love of big machines through the study of diesel mechanics. M. is proof positive that even the complicated cases have hope. M. will be able to be self sufficient and contribute to society rather than needing ongoing expensive assistance. Without the intervention of a dedicated case manager and the think out of the box approach of the private day placement, none of this would have happened. M.’s story provides proof that the right intervention yields results that more than pay for themselves over the long term.

To submit your story about how treatment works, contact Ashley Everette, Campaign Coordinator, at ashley@vakids.org.