My story started 18 years ago with my then 3 years old son. He exhibited multiple behavioral issues, so I sought help. The agency I was using at the time recognized that due to his behavioral issues, my other child was experiencing trauma and also needed mental health treatment. They continued this treatment for years but nothing changed. 9 years later I had another child and then 3 more years I added another. Throughout, we struggled through so many appointments which included, counseling, medication management, PSR (Psychosocial Rehabilitation), Parents with Love and Limits, and workshops offered from the community how to “better manage your child”. When our son was 14 years old, I was desperate. He had been kicked out of a school, shoplifted regularly, abused his siblings, and was destroying property everywhere. In a desperate reach for answers, I had him tested for Developmental Disabilities. It turned out my son was on the spectrum and had Serious Emotional Disturbance.
At almost 17 years old my son was bigger and stronger than me. He attacked me in front of my children which meant none of us were safe. I was forced to press charges against my child (I had purposely spent his life keeping him out of the Juvenile Justice system), because I was not receiving adequate help anywhere else and this was the last resort.
Finding my voice
At one point, a friend asked me if I would be willing to “share” my story. I had no idea what this meant nor what this would look like. I told my story angrily. Through tears, snot, and hyperventilation, I made sure everyone that listened knew what my family was going through. I wanted everyone to recognize that the system not only failed my son, but they also failed my 3 other children. Eventually, the story became easier to tell. Eventually, my story helped other families know they weren’t alone. Eventually, my story was applied as examples to YES (Youth Empowerment System) so changes could be made. Eventually, my story made me stronger.
What I learned
In addition to informing the YES system for 4 years now through workgroups, chair the State Behavioral Health Planning Council, I am a member of the Juvenile Justice Commission, and I assist other families in navigating Idaho’s new system of care. I have learned so much along the way: I am not alone, my voice matters. Our youth mental health system is story-based and without the brave parents sharing their traumatic stories and experiences, YES would still be struggling to understand why pieces and parts weren’t working. I do not want another family to experience the hardship, isolation, and helpless desolation I did. I will continue to learn, grow, and help because other families need my story so they can tell theirs.