Sabrina was 12 when she first tried to kill herself. Her parents rushed her to the Emergency Department. The Emergency Department is no place to treat a child in the midst of a mental health crisis. Yet many parents have no other choice when seeking care for their child. Long waits, lack of coordinated care, and inadequate beds all contribute to the challenge of compassionately caring for these children.
While she waited for a bed to become available, she spent “72 hours falling further and further into my darkness,” she says. “Those days were perhaps the most vulnerable ones of my life. Those were days I needed comfort, compassion and kindness. Those were the days I needed to learn that my life, and I as a person, were valid and worthy of living.” Instead, she was in a barren room, waiting for someone to be discharged so she could be admitted and get the help she desperately needed.
Now 17, Sabrina continued to struggle with mental illness, returning to the ED several times. “Sometimes [my illness] got so bad, I would do self-harm to deal with the pain, not because I was trying to kill myself,” she says. Going to the ED was terrifying as she was often in a cold white room without windows. “I already felt like a prisoner in my mind and now I felt like a prisoner in reality as well.”
Because of generous donors, Providence is remodeling vacant space in the hospital to allow for safe, child-focused care for patients like Sabrina who require additional observation, or who are waiting for an inpatient bed or a transfer to other care.