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Behavioral Health helps teens in a mental health crisis

Posted on Feb. 22, 2017 ( comments)
Roth family

What happens when your fun-loving, "easy kid" becomes someone you don’t recognize — someone who scares you?

What if your child was sick and needed the kind of help your community didn’t provide?

Many families in Pierce County share the unnerving, frustrating struggle to find care for a teen experiencing a mental health crisis. One in five teenagers live with mental health illness. Half of these kids will drop out of high school because they are unable to get the care and support they need.

For the Roth family, the struggle lasted more than a decade. When their son, Bryce, started exhibiting signs of a severe mental health illness, his family couldn’t find a mental health care professional who was able to see him. And once they found a psychiatrist who could see Bryce, the care wasn’t adequate.

Proper diagnosis of a behavioral health illness isn’t as simple as reading a blood test or an X-ray. It requires careful observance and insight by mental health experts, specially trained to identify abnormalities in teenage behavior.

As a psychiatrist trying to evaluate Bryce explained to his family, their son really needed to be observed and treated at an inpatient facility. But such a facility wasn’t available in their Pierce County community at the time.

“The hardest part was finding a place when I needed help,” Bryce recalls.

Bryce struggled to find the care he needed for years. He bounced between doctors — and even ended up handcuffed to an emergency department bed for days on end.

“It wasn’t until I was in an inpatient facility that a doctor was able to offer a proper diagnosis,” he says.

Bryce’s story is a reminder of how desperately our community needs the services provided by the new Adolescent Behavioral Health at Tacoma General.

Opened in late 2016, it is the first program of its kind in Pierce County, and one of just a few programs in the entire state to offer inpatient treatment for teens in a mental health crisis. The 27-bed progressive treatment facility provides a safe, therapeutic environment filled with natural light, warm colors and lots of comfortable nooks and quiet spaces for relaxation and healing.

As his mom, Ricky, explains, Bryce can’t help but wonder how different things would be if the Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit was around when he needed it.

“Wouldn’t my life have been different if something like that would have been available and I could have gone in and been diagnosed instead of wasting all these years of my life trying to figure it out myself?” Bryce asks.

Bryce is doing well these days. He’s warm and gregarious. He has a great job. And most important, he has the tools he needs to live with his mental health illness.

Support the Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit at Tacoma General

The Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit helps teens in a mental health crisis. Help support these teens and their families.

Watch a video about the Roth family

About The Author

Laura McDonald Laura McDonald

Laura McDonald is manager of grants and strategic communication for the Foundations of MultiCare. She writes stories that celebrate the impact of philanthropic giving. You can reach her at [email protected]

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