The Kindervelt Psychiatric Emergency Assessment Center has at least two big fans – Alyssa Smith and her mom, Shanda.
“We’re so excited to have something like this in the emergency department,” says Shanda. “Having a child in the middle of a mental health crisis is overwhelming enough without adding in the chaos of the emergency room on top of it. This will help a lot of kids and their families when they need it most.”
Alyssa has struggled with her mental health since she was just 3 years old, when she would have intense mood swings, erratic behavior and issues with sleeping. Her parents searched for answers and finally found a psychiatrist who helped them get a handle on Alyssa’s mental health.
By the time she was in kindergarten, however, Alyssa’s mental health issues began to worsen. In second grade, she was admitted as an inpatient at Cincinnati Children’s for psychiatric care.
“She was an inpatient twice that year,” Shanda remembers. “All in all, she’s been an inpatient at Cincinnati Children’s eight times.”
While Alyssa receives her regular counseling outside of Cincinnati Children’s, her inpatient stays help her to use her coping skills and reinforce what she’s learned to help her manage her condition.
Today, Alyssa is 12 years old – nearly 13 – and is in middle school. Her favorite subjects are Spanish and geography, and she’s currently writing three different books. She’s also an avid amateur photographer, thanks to the Patiently Made program at Cincinnati Children’s.
What’s more – Alyssa’s experiences have made her a vocal and strong advocate for kids with mental health problems.
“She believes she has to tell her story so that other people know they’re not alone,” says Shanda. “She doesn’t want anyone to feel lonely or like they’re the only ones in the world dealing with these issues.”
At school, Alyssa extends her advocacy and love of helping people to volunteering as a peer tutor for kids with multiple special needs. “She’s extremely empathetic,” Shanda smiles. “Helping others helps her, too. It makes me so proud of her.”
For both Shanda and Alyssa, Cincinnati Children’s has been an important partner in Alyssa’s journey – and the Kindervelt PEACe project will make that partnership even stronger.
“We’re so grateful to Kindervelt’s amazing donors who make this much needed space possible,” says Shanda. “Having a dedicated, supportive place for kids in a mental health crisis within the emergency room not only helps these children and their families through a scary time, but it helps save lives.”