A Family in Crisis and at a Crossroads

Written for Children of Bellevue Hospital

Imagine having two teenaged children admitted to the ER for acute psychiatric care within the space of a year. Lena’s son and daughter were both considered at risk for suicide. As a mother, it was devastating.

In August of 2013, in the grip of manic anxiety and with self-inflicted wounds, 16-year old Grace landed in The Comprehensive Children’s Psychiatric Emergency Program (CCPEP) at Bellevue Hospital Center. And in 2014, 15-year old Jordan modeled his sister’s coping mechanism, and was subsequently admitted to Bellevue, overwhelmed by stress.

Family Pressures Build
Based on candid family revelations, there may be a genetic correlation between the sibling’s self-destructive tendencies. In 2004, Lena voluntarily admitted herself for in-patient psychiatric care; she wanted to end her life. Lena’s younger brother did, in fact, commit suicide in 2007.

There were other troubling events swirling in the mix for this family. In 2013, Jordan’s friend was struck by a car and killed, the same year his sister was admitted to Bellevue’s ER on suicide watch. Whether their challenges were a result of DNA or circumstance, the outlook was not favorable.

Prior to coming to Bellevue, Grace suffered her worst moments as she was processed in and out of seven different hospitals between the summers of 2012 and 2013. Medication cocktails that included a host of anti-psychotic drugs in progressively higher doses were prescribed, agitating her condition. 

Finally, Lena was directed to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program at Bellevue Hospital Center, where the doctors evaluated her children’s needs with an open mind. They asked questions without making assumptions and afforded Lena the respect of a collaborative approach to her children’s treatment plans. What followed was nearly 18 months of intensive individual adolescent therapy, medication management, family counseling and mental health rehabilitation.

Finding Relief
For six months each, Grace and Jordan participated in the Day Treatment Program, stepping down from in-patient care to a comprehensive support system that included high school classes, talk therapy, and medication management until they were ready for re-entry to a new school and social activities. Today, they still receive therapy, take appropriate medications and continue to develop improved coping skills.

Lena believes that Bellevue Hospital renewed her family, and most likely saved her children’s lives. They provided exceptional care and concern for her children when they were in crisis. She also credits the Children of Bellevue program and its highly responsive staffers for helping her to become a better parent with enhanced tools for communication.

Renewed with Sustainable Hope
Both siblings have found outlets for their creativity and, along with their mother, Lena, they are looking forward as they continue to learn and grow as individuals and as a family. Jordan, who has a passion for drawing with pen and ink, is currently enrolled in art school; Grace will graduate from high school soon and is planning on attending cosmetology school to develop her talents as a makeup artist and hair stylist. Lena wants to go back to school to find a new path, now that she and her kids are stronger and more independent.

The impact of a family crisis is exhausting, a fact that Lena knows firsthand. “Find time to care for yourself. My daughter became dependent on me and I neglected my own care.”

She points out the importance of maintaining a support system and being involved with your child’s treatment. “Keep asking questions!” she stresses.

Finally, Lena wants parents to know that “recovery” is a process; to be aware of setbacks, acknowledge progress and move forward.