Child and Adolescent Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic: Elisabeta’s Story

October 9, 2020

“I was seven when I first started to feel sad all the time,” remembers Elisabeta. “I didn’t understand what depression was. It was just how I felt.”

By the time Elisabeta was twelve, she had started self-harming and thinking about suicide.

“I was never happy, and that was all I knew,” she says. “But I kept it to myself, even when I was assigned a social worker to be with me at school. I didn’t know how to talk about it.”

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outpatient Lobby

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic offers ongoing outpatient care to young patients who arrive in our Jack & Pat Kay Emergency Psychiatric Unit, if they do not require inpatient care but do need additional support.

In grade nine, Elisabeta’s mental health started to seriously impact life at school. She had high anxiety, suffered from panic attacks, and sometimes she would run out of class intending to harm herself. Fearing the worst, the school administration insisted Elisabeta get help.

“That first night at Humber River Hospital, we stayed in the Emergency Psychiatric Unit,” says Elisabeta’s mom Angela. “The staff calmed me down and were so accommodating. They allowed me to be the parent, and they brought us everything we needed to be comfortable.”

Elisabeta was fast-tracked into Humber’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic, and was introduced to her psychiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Holiff and her social worker Kristin Yeo. Every week for the duration of the Clinic, Elisabeta and her family came into the Hospital to meet with them.

“I’ll never forget how they facilitated conversation between Elisabeta, her dad, and me,” says Angela. “They would talk to her first, then they would talk to us as a family, and then Elisabeta would leave with Kristin so that Dr. Holiff could speak with us alone. Our youngest daughter also participated in some of our sessions. The Clinic was for our whole family.”

Elisabeta started to open up about the issues she was having with friends at school, and that she was questioning her gender identity and sexuality. Dr. Holiff was supportive, giving Elisabeta the space she needed to talk openly about the questions she had, without the pressure of having to figure it all out.

“I could talk to them and they would listen,” says Elisabeta. “That really helped. I found that when I was able to speak to people who didn’t already know me, it was much easier to express myself. I never felt like I could do that before.”

Dr. Holiff also suspected that her ADHD was having an impact on her mental health, and gradually adjusted her medication each week until they found a dosage that now seems to be working for her.

childrens toys lined up on a windowsill in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic

“I found that when I was able to speak to people who didn’t already know me, it was much easier to express myself. I never felt like I could do that before,” says Elisabeta.

“I can see a marked improvement with Elisabeta,” says Angela. “When she was at her lowest, I had no idea how to help her. I received a lot of helpful advice as a parent on how we could best support her.”

Dr. Holiff and Kristin have recommended some follow up care with a community organization in Toronto that Elisabeta and her family are considering.

Today, Elisabeta is experiencing fewer panic attacks and feels like she can express herself much better. While she still has emotional ups and downs, she is feeling okay, and is grateful for Dr. Holiff and Kristin.

“We wouldn’t have gotten this far without Humber River Hospital,” says Angela. “If it wasn’t for the donors supporting this Clinic, I’m not sure we would have been able to access the help we needed. I feel so thankful that we were able to help her.”


Please note: Some names have been changed for the comfort of Elisabeta and her family.