Dear parent/guardian/loved one of a child, who has been admitted into the Child Psychiatry Unit,

My son, Jalen, is 7 years old. At 5 years old, his behaviors changed from that of his peers, and by age 6 he was diagnosed with ADHD with anxiety combined.

For almost two years, at home, school, and childcare, many interventions were put in place before we began medicine trials. We started medicine in September and by December, Jalen was admitted to the Child Psychiatry Unity (CPU) because he "was out of control." His impulsivity was making him unhappy and putting him in unsafe situations.

As a mother, it was a very hard decision to make, even more so as a family. It is hard explaining mental health issues to other family members, coworkers, and friends. Mental health is not stereotypically a "visual" thing. We can't put a cast on it, operate, or give it an inhaler, but it exists and left untreated or ignored, it could possibly be fatal. At a minimum, it creates a toxic environment for the child and the people around them because everyone is expecting the child to respond "normally" and the child is hurting because this illness is really out of his/her control.

Jalen stayed at Children's National for 14 long days. He had two planned discharges that got canceled because of sleepwalking/behavior modification. He has been home for two weeks tomorrow and is doing much better. He is not "cured" but now everyone, including Jalen, understands that he was really unable to help himself prior to admission. Each day brings its challenges. He is taking medicine twice a day, but it is to his benefit, not to his detriment.

I wrote this letter and shared our story because I wanted others to know that they are not alone. I want to confirm that it is not easy and that being willing to learn and continue the outpatient plan is vital to each kid's success.

Mental health is different for each person. It is not likely that the first dose of medicine will be effective and like any additive there may be noticeable side effects. As parents/guardians it is our responsibility to look at the cost/benefit of each step. It is our responsibility to tell others, so mental issues lose some of the stigma. It is our responsibility to give our children unconditional love and all of the tools for a chance at becoming successful at whatever path that they choose.

I hope that at least one person reads these words and benefits from our experience. From my family to yours, we wish you the best in treatment and in the future!


Melisa, Jalen's Mom



Video: Introduction to the Parent's Letter Project

The Parent's Letter Project lets Children's National Medical Center parents whose children have faced medical crises use their experience to support others.

Behavioral and mental health - Letters