Our daughter Ella had always been an enthusiastic and happy person. That was until 2021, when she started to become more withdrawn and less motivated. At first, we thought it might be teenage hormones — she was 15. However, the problem continued and by fall Ella seemed like a different person. We became terribly concerned.

A Cry for Help

Ella began seeing a therapist, but the initial support didn’t get to the root of her mental health challenges. Then one day in November, Ella took more than the recommended dose of headache pills and confided that she didn’t want to wake up. Frantic for help, we contacted Ella’s paediatrician, our family doctors and three walk-in clinics, but no one could see us right away.

Dr. Leigh Solomon, North York General Hospital

Dr. Leigh Solomon

We were beside ourselves because we couldn’t access help during our crisis. Then we thought of the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency at North York General Hospital (NYGH), recalling that it never closes. As expected, the ED was there for us. After arriving and being assessed, Ella was admitted to the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit.

Psychiatrist Dr. Leigh Solomon diagnosed Ella with depression and developed a care plan that included a referral to the outpatient mental health program at Phillips House. We were taken aback, but also relieved to have a formal diagnosis and action plan.

The ED Saved Ella’s Life

However, the situation got worse before it got better. Ella was set to begin treatment the next week when she had another episode involving the overuse of headache pills. Shocked and scared, we rushed back to the ED, where the team’s fast action saved Ella’s life. There are no words to express our gratitude. Once stabilized, Ella was then transferred once again to the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Inpatient Unit. Although she was initially angry about being admitted, we were fearful for Ella’s safety, and the staff reassured us this was the best course of action.

Ella Received Compassionate Mental Health Care

Ella stayed in the inpatient unit for two weeks, receiving treatment from an interprofessional team, including Dr. Solomon, nurses and child and youth counsellors. Not only were we confident Ella was receiving exceptional care, but we were thankful for the kindness and compassion of the staff. By the beginning of the second week, Ella was engaged in her therapy and was talking about her feelings. We were so relieved she was expressing herself.

Brighter Days Ahead

I’m happy to share that Ella was discharged from the hospital in early December 2021. Since then, she has been using the tools she learned to help manage her depression, and she continues to participate in the outpatient program at Phillips House. Overall, she is making really good progress.

As a family, we are incredibly grateful to the outstanding team in the youth mental health program at NYGH for being there when Ella so urgently needed help. We will never forget their care and compassion, which has given us hope for Ella’s bright future.

— Laura and Mark, Ella’s parents