Mental illness is most often associated with adults, though it is estimated that 1 in 5 children are diagnosed with a mental health condition before age 17. For Emily, that illness manifested early in life, and by the time she was in kindergarten, she had seen her first psychiatrist.
Originally diagnosed with ADHD, Emily struggled throughout childhood with various mental health disorders. No one in her family fully understood the severity of Emily’s mental illness until she was 12 when she was hospitalized for suicidal tendencies and depression. Later, her parents would learn that Emily also suffers from multiple personality disorder, severe anxiety and PTSD.
“Well, it prevents me from being able to do certain things,” explains Emily, “I overthink things. I have tons of distortions. Panic attacks, worrying, sleep problems, and ‘all or nothing’ thinking like obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and anger – all which causes communications problems.”
When Emily’s mental health condition worsened before it got better. Arguments with her family became commonplace. She started hanging with a dangerous crowd and was later arrested for shoplifting. Around the same time, she began self-harm as a result of her depression.
“My depression was so bad that I couldn’t see the good in anything. My brain wasn’t good at all and I didn’t feel free,” Emily remembers.
The County recommended that Emily get connected with Lad Lake’s Outreach and Mentoring program. The combination of therapy, medication and mentors helped Emily heal and move on.
“It definitely benefitted the whole family – especially Amanda,” said Emily’s mother Patti about the Lad Lake mentor “They really had a good connection. The mentoring got her out of the house when all she wanted to do was sleep all day because of her depression. She’s doing better at school now too. We were very thankful to have had that service – it was a relief to us.”
Today, Emily is coping better with her mental illness and no longer feels the need for regular visits with a mentor. She uses art, journaling, meditation and interacting with animals to help manage her mental health condition.
When asked what she takes away from the experience with her Lad Lake mentor, Emily replies “I think the best thing she did was just talk to me. She would talk about her life and I would talk about mine…She really made a difference in my life. She really did. She taught me a lot. She was really helpful… I learned that you have to love yourself first.”