The Story of Bennie
The story I am about to tell you gets off to a rough start. But I hope that you will read it all the way through, because it does have a happy ending, thanks to you.
Bennie wasn’t a bad kid. He was a sad kid. His feelings of worthlessness led to suicidal thoughts and angry outbursts. He frustrated easily and if he made an error in school, he punished himself by banging his head, hiding under the desk, or throwing a tantrum.
The last straw for Bennie was the day he became so violent that the teacher had to clear her second grade classroom of other students. Something set Bennie off and he upended desks and threw everything he could get his hands on.
Luckily for Bennie, he was sent to the Children’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital Center, the only place like it in all of New York State. As you can imagine, the ambulance ride was traumatic, but the staff of the CCPEP eased his fears when they greeted him with smiles. After a thorough evaluation, his team determined that Bennie could best be helped on the inpatient unit. Would it surprise you to learn that we admit children as young as three to the inpatient psychiatric unit?
Most other hospitals would have admitted Bennie, treated his symptoms through over-medication and sedation, and then released him when his behavior was under control. Eventually, the cycle would surely start all over again.
Would you want that for your child? Our program tries to understand the ‘why’ of abnormal behavior.What was causing Bennie’s violent outbursts and desire to harm himself? The sad reality is that almost one-third of our child and adolescent psychiatric patients are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Bennie’s case, he had witnessed several instances of physical abuse against his mother by her boyfriend, a man who also inflicted severe corporal punishment on Bennie. Bennie and his younger brother lived with her in a one-room domestic violence shelter. By the time his mother finally left her abusive partner, Bennie was hurting.
Away from his mom for the first time, Bennie cried for two straight days.
Bennie got the help he needed in the hospital from a team of specially trained doctors, nurses and social workers. When words failed, he was able to express his deepest emotions with a visual journal, using pictures for words he couldn’t spell. He learned cognitive behavioral therapy techniques (CBT) such as deep breathing and visual imagery to self-calm in stressful situations. He even took part in dance therapy and loved to attend yoga sessions to learn mindfulness!
Bennie’s good conduct was noticed and rewarded throughout the day, thanks to a Children of Bellevue-supported behavioral rewards program, just one of the many ways we use your donations.
Bennie’s mother didn’t realize that he witnessed and remembered her abuse. The social work team not only helped the family work through these difficult memories, they advocated on their behalf to find better living conditions for the family and mental health services for Bennie’s mother, a trauma victim herself. They advocated for Bennie to receive an IEP assessment to help school staff understand how to best meet his needs.
Bennie was beyond excited on the day of his discharge! He ran to his mother and gave her a huge hug. She cried tears of joy. Bennie was so happy to see his little brother that he couldn’t let go of him.
Our patient care continues for thirty days after discharge. We connected Bennie’s mother with a family resource center and legal services. Bennie began weekly therapy sessions at our outpatient clinic andreceived follow up visits in his home for six weeks via our home-based crisis intervention program, designed to prevent re-admission. He went back to his school and never required readmission to Bellevue.