Mother shares difficulty finding help for mentally ill son

Posted at 6:32 PM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 14:58:06-04

Finding appropriate care for a child dealing with a mental health condition can be difficult, according to a Nashville mother.

Patricia Ethridge is forced to work from home to take care of her 14-year-old son diagnosed with mental health illness and has an aggressive behavior.

She adopted him when he was a month old from a home that had drug addiction, abandonment and physical violence.

Ethridge, who did not want to identify her son, said he is diagnosed with PTSD, reactive attachment disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, among other things.

He has been arrested several times for attacking a teacher and officer, and even threatened suicide and hurting her. Despite several different treatments, she said none of them worked.

"I was desperate to find my son help and I felt personally unequipped to help him," Ethridge told NewsChannel 5. "All the providers that we're working with suggest we get him into a residential treatment program, and when he threatened suicide it was a psychiatric hospital that he needed."

However, she said many of the programs and centers have denied her son because there were not enough beds or because of his aggression.

"The behavior progressively got worse and I felt the system was giving up on him, and his destiny is going to be jail or even worse, death," she said.

She has been instructed to create a residential program for her son. She has detailed a schedule on things she needs to do to provide him help including a time for a teacher to come and draw his blood for medication. Needless to say, it has consumed her time.

"Its been overwhelming and  it's very uncharted territory. Basically I have a residential hospital program in my home and I'm a mom and I have no college training for this," she added.

She currently receives help including Mental Health Cooperative.

Child & Adolescent Crisis Supervisor Chelsea Fite said it is always good to have more resources. Her organization offers crisis assessment for people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others. They provide treatment which include therapy and medication management.

"Often times we're working with are desperate to find their child some help and support in the community. We could always use more resources. There aren't a ton of beds available if you're a child or teenager who might need psychiatric hospitalization somewhere," Fite explained.

Currently, the state licenses 52 sites for Mental Health Residential Treatment for Children and Youth across Tennessee. The exact number of beds was not immediately known.

A spokesperson said one other way to receive help is through Tennessee System of Care