Lessons learned with the support of Acute@Home 

By Amy Russell, Wood’s Homes Family Support Counsellor.

An Acute@Home (formerly Emergency Room Outreach) family was asked to reflect on their personal experience with mental health and share their recommendations for families beginning their mental health journeys while navigating available supports. To protect the privacy of the client, the pseudo-name Becky is used below. 

Becky, a 13-year-old female, had been to the hospital a couple times before engaging with Wood’s Homes’ A@H Program. She shared that she felt she’d made a mistake the first time she arrived at the hospital, as she did not tell the truth and kept important information from the professionals working with her – and that it took her some time before she realized that the professionals were not there to judge her. She suggests that youth experiencing the same worries write a letter/note to their family or mental health care workers to help verbalize their own needs and concerns.  

Becky also shared how she thinks it is important for other youth to know that mental health challenges are common, and that lots of youth go through ups and downs – and the professionals have seen these needs and concerns before. Becky advises other youth to not worry about whether they are normal or not normal for having mental health challenges, because everyone experiences struggles! 

To help manage challenging times, Becky explained that she had a few specific strategies and coping skills she would practice. These strategies included things she likes to do, such as painting, drawing and going for a walk. She shared that crying also helped her cope sometimes. She explained that she thought she shouldn’t need to cry at because of her other coping skills, but soon realized that crying can be necessary in the healing process. Talking to her mother also helped greatly during these times. 

Becky created her own relapse prevention plan with Wood’s Homes A@H program staff. She offers the following suggestions to help other youth experiencing a mental health crisis: 

  • Think about how you will never be back to square one again with your mental health, because back then you were alone, whereas now you have people to support you. 
  • Have a trusted adult you can check in with, such as a pastor or family member. 
  • Create a bucket list to remind yourself of all the things you still want to do with your life, such as travelling, visiting theme parks or living in your own apartment someday. 
  • Get an emotional support animal – they never leave you and don’t judge. 
  • Don’t jump to conclusions that your parents are mad or angry with you for having mental health challenges. They are likely scared and worried for you. 
  • Tell your parents what it is like for you in order for them to understand what you are going through. 
  • Give your parents time to process what you are going through. If your parents are stressed by it, it doesn’t mean they hate you. 

Becky’s mom shared that she thinks it is important for parents of other cultures or immigrants, like herself, to have awareness of mental health and place focus on it. Whether parents think the child is making it up or not, she believes the parents need to show that they care. It is important to make room for their child to share concerns and difficulties, and not just the positive moments in their lives. She added that if parents do not make themselves available to talk with their children, then it will be the friends who are providing the support and managing the child’s safety. 

We asked Becky’s mom what she would add into a family relapse plan to help prevent youth from experiencing further mental health crises, and she discussed the importance of family bonding time, changing the youth’s environment if they are having difficulty managing emotions, and encouraging youth to open up and talk. She also emphasized the importance of listening without providing guidance or opinion. 

Lastly, Becky’s mom discussed the need of parents to be well informed of what mental health is, particularly parents from other cultures. She shared that back in her home country mental health is not understood the same way. She suggested that the first part of treatment should focus on education around what mental health is, and strongly advocates for psycho-education to be provided within all areas of people’s lives.