Elijah is a 23-year-old young adult living with autism and several other mental health challenges. He lives with his mother, Adaminah, in Philadelphia. Over the years, Elijah has struggled to get appropriate, responsive, and compassionate crisis care. Because of this, Adaminah has become a strong advocate not only for her own son but for all children, youth, and families living with behavioral health challenges. She currently works as a Family Engagement Specialist on the SAMHSA-funded National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Children, Youth, and Family Mental Health (NTTAC). Adaminah is also a member of a learning collaborative with Philadelphia’s Department of Behavior Health & Intellectual Disabilities Services (DBHIDS).
Elijah and Adaminah talked recently about his experience with crisis care and what could be done to make it better. In this conversation, Elijah explains the fear, anger, and humiliation that he feels when crisis care doesn’t respect his rights or respond to his humanity.
I asked my son, “What are 5 things you want people to know about when you need to go to, or when you are in, the hospital?”
Elijah then shared with me…
- Talk to me like I’m a person, not a patient. I’m a person and I need help. I shouldn’t be punished because I’m in the hospital. If I’m yelling, don’t yell at me, help me. I need help, I want help, but it’s hard to say that. I get loud; it’s like I’m not in control. Help me!
- I should be able to use the bathroom like everyone else. Just because I’m in the hospital doesn’t mean I don’t get embarrassed. I want respect and dignity too! Don’t take everything from me!
- Don’t leave me alone in a padded quiet room and forget about me. If I’m scared or upset, help me to calm down; check on me, talk to me. I’m a person!
- I’m not a monster! I asked Elijah what he meant by that, he responded “When I’m upset don’t just strap me down, help me to calm down. I’m afraid, I’m scared. I know I’m loud, but I’m scared; I need help. Just help me!
- Sometimes I can’t think, so I need my mom to help me think. I know my mom loves me. I trust my mom. I know she really wants to help me. I don’t want to feel like I’m a problem. I want to feel like they (staff) really want to help me. I need help. Just help me! Sometimes I feel like I want to die so I don’t have to do all this or feel like this anymore. Just help me! I need help!
Elijah looked at me and simply said, “I love you mom. Thank you!” We hugged and he went back to playing his video game.
So now I ask, how do we HELP and not further HARM someone that is hurting?