Published on June 14, 2016

Maquoketa Teen Shares Recovery Story

Emma talks with Anh Lee, RN.

Emma, 17, was admitted to the child and adolescent unit at Genesis Medical Center, West Central Park in Davenport

Emma Lennon was usually a fairly typical teen who sang around the house but the singing had recently stopped.

Emma was sullen and withdrawn. It wasn’t the first time her mother, Beth, had concerns about her daughter’s mental health.

By the time Emma went to see her regular therapist, Erin Lange of Bethany for Children and Families in Maquoketa, Emma was on the floor of Lange’s office crying inconsolably.

“She wouldn’t stop crying but couldn’t explain what was wrong,’’ said her mother, Beth. “She wanted to die.

“She was talking about how worthless she was. She had been withdrawing from everything she normally likes to do. She didn’t want to participate. She was really in a dark place.’’

Lange suggested that Emma needed specialized behavioral health care. Lange recommended the child and adolescent unit at Genesis Medical Center, West Central Park in Davenport. Emma and her mother were soon on their way.

“I’m not sure everything that happened over those next 36 hours, but it was fantastic what they did for her,’’ Beth said. “I went to see her less than 24 hours after she was admitted and she gave me a huge hug and said ‘I’ve missed you.’’’

There is no typical story of a behavioral health condition. This is Emma’s very personal story.

Sharing Her Story

The student at Maquoketa Community High School didn’t hesitate sharing this story because, as she explains, “I had a problem, I got help. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.’’

Psychiatrist Jeffrey Weyeneth, M.D., who worked with Emma, said her openness about her condition is unusual. Transparency, he said, is important within the treatment process.

“One of the issues with mental health is that the person with the condition often suffers alone because there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to mental health disorders,’’ said Weyeneth, the medical director of Genesis Behavioral Health. “Getting past that stigma is important in understanding and effectively treating mental illness.’’

The child and adolescent behavioral health unit at Genesis Medical Center, West Central Park is one of the long-planned expansions of service now available to the region.

Genesis has also expanded its adult inpatient unit, will open additional beds in each unit in late June or early July, has added intensive outpatient therapy services and has further plans for expansion, including a 24-bed geriatric inpatient unit in 2017.

Emma’s clinical diagnosis is major depressive disorder.

“At that moment, I didn’t know what I needed. I had no emotion, no feelings,’’ Emma said. “I felt like everything around me was collapsing.’’

The brief inpatient stay was the first for Emma. She had begun showing signs of depression several years earlier.

“She learned to bottle things up after losing her father in 2005. She got really good at that (repressing her feelings and thoughts),’’ Beth Lennon explained. “I hadn’t told her that her father had shot himself until two years ago. I think that changed her.’’

Emma had not needed inpatient care until the night when she couldn’t stop crying and was talking about harming herself.

“It was the best thing we could have done for Emma at the time,’’ Beth said. “Those people at Genesis were fantastic.’’

Emma Isn’t Alone

Emma, who just turned 17, explained that in the brief inpatient stay, she realized a lot about herself. One realization was that she was not alone.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one of five children ages 13 to 18 already have, or will have, a serious mental illness.

Here are additional statistics from NAMI about the prevalence of mental illness among children and teens:

  • Eleven percent of youth have a mood disorder
  • Ten percent have a diagnosed behavior or conduct disorder
  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24

Learning You're Not Alone

“We had group sessions and we talked about ourselves; things we had been going through, and different ways to cope with our situations,’’ Emma said. “It was a new experience being around other kids in my age group and even younger who were going through the same thing I was. All of us were going through some sort of depression and were acting out.

“Even during the short time I was there, it opened my eyes.’’

Beth Lennon said Emma’s care from Genesis Behavioral Health professionals did not end at discharge.

“At first they followed up every day. Now it is once a week and will go to once a month as long as nothing comes up,’’ Beth said. “Anh Le (behavioral health nurse) and the rest of the staff took a girl who was talking about suicide and turned her back into herself again.’’

“I don’t feel like the same person who went in. I came out better. I’m more confident and understand that I’m not alone,’’ Emma said.

Beth Lennon was accustomed to hearing her daughter sing. The singing had stopped as the crisis level rose.

“Now she is singing again and very happy with a positive outlook on life. She handles things completely different than before,’’ Beth said.

Find out more about Genesis Behavioral Health. If immediate help is needed, call 911 or take the person in crisis to the nearest emergency department.

-- Craig Cooper, Genesis

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