Emma comes from a large, loving blended family of eight children. A passionate, native New Yorker and resident of Rockaway – a tightknit community hit especially hard by recent tragedies including the September 11th terrorist attacks and Hurricane Sandy – she got her first taste of an anxiety attack and feelings of depression when her firefighter uncle and so many close to her family died in the World Trade Center. But at just six years old, she was too young to fully recognize and understand it. Because she was dyslexic, when she started school, she began having difficulties learning immediately. Things were complicated further when in third grade, she was diagnosed with ADHD. But her wellbeing really took a turn for the worse when her family moved her away from her beloved New York city life, large extended family and life-long friends to Naples, Florida in the tough, awkward middle school years. Emma adds, “It was very hard for me to leave my family and friends. Everything just fell apart. I held a grudge about the move and I was angry so I took it out on my family. I isolated from them, stayed in my room and slept all the time. “
Her problems at home were just the tip of the iceberg. The kids at school harassed her because she was different. She didn’t like their music, didn’t dress the way they did and they bullied her about her weight and her dyed hair. Because she was uncomfortable with her new surroundings and the teachers, she didn’t speak up and ask for help with her dyslexia and her grades suffered tremendously. She began having horrible panic attacks during tests and assignments and she suffered in silence. As a result, she was failing out of school and hated everything about her new life.
After what her mother describes as a break down and severe panic attack where she feared her daughter might do something drastic, she finally sought help from the David Lawrence Centers . She began seeing an outpatient therapist and psychiatrist and was prescribed medication for her ADHD, anxiety and depression. Over the next six months, things began to improve a little with the help of the medications, but she needed a higher level of care. Without insurance her family feared they couldn’t afford it until her therapist recommended the Naples Children and Education Foundation funded Wrap Around Collier program which provides community-based, specialty mental health treatment to high-risk, uninsured children and adolescents.
Emma immediately connected with her therapist who met her in the home twice a week. She worked with her over the next year on everything from tutoring her in biology and breathing techniques to stave off an anxiety attack to how to ask for help and problem solving skills. When her neighbor died in the flooding from Hurricane Sandy and her hometown was devastated, her therapist helped her cope with the trauma and anxiety it caused her to not be there with her loved ones. She learned invaluable lifelong lessons about how to deal with blows that life can deliver.
Emma stated, “David Lawrence Centers was there for me when no one else understood what I was going through. My therapist got me out of my shell. She taught me to accept that I had a mental illness and pushed me to learn to depend on myself to get through it. I am a much stronger and happier person now.”
Emma, now 18, chose to move back to New York and is living with her grandmother and nearing graduation with excellent grades. She is no longer on medication and rarely has a panic attack. When she feels anxious, she now has the tools in place to handle them and they dissipate within minutes.
Emma’s mother Elizabeth says the life-saving program helped her entire family come together. She shares, “Emma is doing so much better. Life is easier not having to worry if your kid is going to get through this. It helps to know that problems can be solved and that there is help. Mental illness affects the whole family. When Emma had a bad day, we all had a bad day. David Lawrence Centers helped us learn to listen, communicate better and have compassion for what Emma was going through.”