One of Bethany’s earliest memories is the screams of terrified babies and children during an incident at the only home she had ever known — a Chinese orphanage. She was too young at the time to know what happened that day. But from that moment, she lived in terror that one day she might be taken away. And when Bethany was adopted and brought to Savannah, Georgia, at the age of 5, she soon discovered that no one, including her “new” mom, looked like her or could understand her. She began to feel isolated and alone.
Fast-forward to her early teenage years, and Bethany, now living in Charlotte, North Carolina, found herself in one abusive relationship after another with the boys she dated. Bethany also began getting bullied at school. She changed schools, but the bullying followed her on social media and even intensified. Bethany’s young life was spiraling out of control and one summer night, at the age of 15, she attempted to end her life.
After being hospitalized on a behavioral health unit for several days, Bethany received outpatient therapy for the next six months, but continued to struggle. Then her mother learned about a program at Novant Health that offers teens experiencing depression and other mental health issues intensive treatment and therapy outside of a hospital setting.
Known as “partial hospitalization,” participants attend the program weekdays, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and work with licensed clinical team members who use group therapy and other interventions to help adolescents learn to manage their symptoms. Participants support each other as they learn coping skills.
“This program was a game-changer for me,” Bethany said. “I could no longer run from my problems in here because I was dealing with them six hours a day. I finally faced the pain head-on, which at the time was difficult, but that’s where the true healing begins.”
During her four weeks in the program, Bethany made the leap from “‘I am a victim’ to ‘I am a survivor’ by developing healthy, positive beliefs,” said her therapist, Ashley McGurkin. “She no longer allowed her past to define her and realized that a fulfilling and joyful life is possible despite the pain she has gone through.”
Bethany is now 18 and taking college classes online and working toward her dream of becoming a therapist. But she is not waiting until she has a degree to provide hope to others who struggle with mental illness. Through an Instagram account, Bethany communicates with thousands of followers during live broadcasts, where she openly discusses her personal struggles with depression and anxiety. “I want teens all around the world to understand that there is more to life than living in their past, and that what they are on the inside is what should define them — not their mental illness.”
To learn more about the Novant Health adolescent partial hospitalization program, call 704-384-7001.