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After treatment, ‘every day is healing’ for teen suicide survivor

Posted on Nov. 21, 2019 ( comments)
Kalyssa

As the director of MultiCare’s Patient Financial Navigation Department, Amy Bond and her staff regularly work with patients and families in tragic situations. 

“In my work at MultiCare, I’ve seen everything,” Bond says. “I deal with patients and families in crisis all the time. But none of that prepared me to face my 16-year-old daughter lying in an emergency room bed.”

In July 2018, Bond received a phone call that no parent is ever prepared for. Her daughter Kalyssa was in the MultiCare Good Samaritan Emergency Department after attempting to take her own life. Bond was in a work meeting at Good Samaritan. Her daughter was just two floors below her.

Just hours before, Kalyssa was attempting suicide when her dad found her.

“On a daily basis, I was battling thoughts of self-harm,” Kalyssa says.

Kalyssa spent almost two days in the emergency department while the family waited for a bed to become available at the MultiCare Tacoma General Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit (ABHU). The ABHU is the first and only inpatient program in Pierce County designed specifically to help teens facing mental health crises.

“I have several friends who have gone through the ABHU and they told me it helped them,” Kalyssa says, “It didn’t cure them because no short-term stay will, but it kept them safe in that moment like it did for me, and that’s important.”

The ABHU treats children ages 13 to 17 for a variety of mental health issues including major depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The ABHU is designed for short stays averaging three to seven days.

During her stay, the ABHU provided daily check-ins and therapeutic activities for Kalyssa that helped her feel safe. They also taught her positive outlets to deal with the intrusive, negative thoughts she deals with daily.

“The help I received at the ABHU was amazing because they were always there,” Kalyssa says. “Whether it was a therapist or someone else to talk to, being able to share how I was feeling was really helpful.”

For the next four to five months following her first ABHU visit, the family was on “suicide watch.” Despite multiple medications, therapy and various outpatient treatments, Kalyssa attempted to take her life again in December 2018. 

“All you want is to protect and shield your children,” Bond says. “Protecting my daughter from external dangers was much different than figuring out how to protect her from herself.”

Kalyssa was admitted to the ABHU following her second suicide attempt. During her second ABHU stay, staff worked with the family to identify a long-term inpatient facility that would fit Kalyssa’s specific needs. She spent five weeks in that program learning dialectical behavioral therapies — a type of therapy aimed at changing negative thinking patterns. Kalyssa has a handful that she knows by heart and continues to use to cope.   

“MultiCare Tacoma General and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital saved my daughter’s life, twice,” Bond says. “From my executive leadership team, to the staff, emergency rooms, doctors and social workers who worked with Kalyssa and the ABHU team. I am proud to work for such an amazing organization. I have never felt so supported, as a staff member or as the mother of a patient as I have this past year.”

Living with a behavioral health issue is a lifelong challenge, but as Kalyssa puts it, “every day is healing.” She is making progress and is in her senior year of high school. Her experience is leading her toward a career in the medical field where she can travel the world helping others.

“My experiences in these facilities forced me to change my mindset,” Kalyssa says. “I want people to know that they aren’t alone and that it gets better. I never felt like I had a friend who checked on me and who truly cared, so I’m making sure I am that person for everyone else.”

Amy Bond and daughter Kalyssa

Inspired to give back

Bond’s gratitude for her daughter’s recovery motivated her to join Mary Bridge Children’s Festival of Trees this year as a tree designer.

The theme is inspired by her and Kalyssa’s transformative trips to Africa. The tree is called “Africa, On Assignment” and will use elements of National Geographic photography and film to tell a story.

“We are very lucky this tree is not in memory of Kalyssa,” Bond says. “We came extremely close to losing her. Instead, our tree is about hope, adventure and seeing a perspective different than your own. Helping others can help you help yourself.” 

For more information about Festival of Trees, visit festivaloftreestacoma.org.

MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation

The MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation is the first of its kind in Washington to focus exclusively on raising critical funding to support people of all ages receiving behavioral health care treatment and services.

You can help provide access to compassionate, high-quality affordable behavioral health care for people in your community and support facilities like the ABHU by making a gift today.

About The Author

Kortney Scroger

Kortney Scroger is a communication specialist for the MultiCare Foundations. She writes stories that connect readers to the impact of giving. You can reach her at [email protected].

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