On the surface, Jahira Towner, seemed like most little girls growing up. She was shy pretty, smart and creative. But at the tender age of seven she began to dive into a deep depression.
Classmates were bullying her at school and Jahira felt alone. Her mother, a single parent, was working two jobs to care for Jahira and her brothers.
“It feels like you’re in a dark hole. You can’t see, you can’t think or feel anything,” said Jahira. “It’s like you’re sad and there is no happiness.”
She confessed to her mom that she wanted to commit suicide. A heartbreaking statement for any mother to hear.
“It was really hurtful,” cried Antionette Cooper, Jahira’s mom. “Sad and very emotional. I had mixed feelings. I was like, how did we get here and how do I fix it?”
Antionette quit her second job and began to spend more time with Jahira. She put Jahira in outpatient therapy at Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI). Slowly the young girl began to open up and heal.
“CHI was the place that helped me to be happy.” said Jahira. “So, I feel like it would help other people be happy.”
Both mom and daughter hope their story will inspire others to join efforts with CHI and help build a Children’s Crisis Center. The inpatient facility will help kids with severe behavioral health
“Our children are our future and we need them to be strong,” said Antionette. “We need them to know that they are not alone.”
As a foster child, Melody bounced around from home to home until she came to Magdalena Calero’s house. Within time, Magdalena earned Melody’s trust and moved to adopt the teen. But the labor of love with Melody was more than a challenge.
“It hasn’t been easy,” said Magdalena. “She has issues and trauma.”
Melody suffers from several behavioral health conditions and turns to cutting herself. The scars on her arm and leg tell the story of her pain.
“Each scar has a memory,” said Melody showing her wounds. “I have words like’ kill me’, I have ‘why me’ and then I have ‘I hate him.’ I have ‘I am broken’ really big because I always consider
myself a broken person.”
Melody has been Baker Acted too many times for Magdalena to count. Usually, she’s been taken to CHI’s Crisis Stabilization Unit. Only to go through a lengthy intake and then transferred
because the facility is not equipped for kids.
Despite the challenges, Melody has seen major improvements. Her grades are up. She enjoys dance and cheerleading at school.
“A flower doesn’t grow in a day,” said Melody referring to her personal growth. “You have to plant it, the sun, the rain, you know it takes time. Everything takes time.”
Lack of access to behavioral health treatment is one of the main reasons some children with mental health issues go without treatment. (According to a study in Health and Social Work) It’s a problem affecting this nation as school shootings and children’s suicide rates are on the rise. In South Florida, some families travel more than 100 miles to bring their kids to a Children’s Crisis Center. Community Health of South Florida, Inc. is working to change that.
The Dr. Jacquelyn T. Hartley Children’s Crisis Center will be built at CHI’s main campus, 10300 SW 216th St. Miami, FL 33190. The center would specialize in treating children who have been victimized by abuse and kids with severe psychological issues.