Chicago Teen Shares Mental Health Struggles to Inspire Others to Get Help – NBC Chicago

Chicago Teen Shares Mental Health Struggles to Inspire Others to Get Help – NBC Chicago

Editor’s Note: NBC 5 is not disclosing Amelia’s last name at her request.

Amelia, a teenager from Chicago, was about 12 years old when she first started feeling intense sadness.

“I was just really confused. I was just this outcast who is sad and I knew I shouldn’t be like this,” Amelia said.

Amelia started getting help from Mallory Hilliard, a licensed clinical social worker at Lurie Children’s Hospital. When the pandemic hit, Amelia’s loneliness intensified.

”We started noticing that her symptoms were really getting in the way of being able to do online school, being able to interact with friends,” Hilliard said.

The feelings hit a breaking point one morning while Amelia was staying at her dad’s house in the Chicago suburbs.

“I saw a bottle of pills and I was like, ‘I’m really sad. Let me just take these pills and that will make it go away,” Amelia said.

Thankfully, Amelia’s father was able to take the pills away and Amelia agreed to get more help by checking into an inpatient program at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“I was admitted to the inpatient and it helped. It really did help,” said Amelia.

Amelia is an example of what researchers found in a recent study by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  

They examined emergency department visits at 205 Illinois hospitals and found that there was a surge in ER visits and hospital stays of children between the ages of 5 and 19 experiencing suicidal ideation before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019. There was an additional surge in these types of visits during the pandemic, the study found.

“Everbody’s coping skills were taken away when the pandemic hit, so for Amelia, we did see that improvement when she was admitted to her stay here,” Hilliard said.

Even though resources at pediatric hospitals, including Lurie Children’s, are being stretched due to greater demand, Hilliard wants children and families to know Lurie has expanded its services to try to help as many people as possible.

“There’s never a bad time to seek treatment for mental health issues, even if it’s going to the ER,” Hilliard said.

That’s why Amelia is sharing her story with NBC 5 before the holidays.  

“I want people to know that they’re not alone and that they’re never alone,” Amelia, now 16, said.

She says medication and continued therapy have helped her and she is hoping her experience inspires others to get the help they need.

“You just have to reach out and there will be someone on the other end trying to help you and trying to get you through,” Amelia said.

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