Trillium Family Services is an incredible non-profit organization that houses children ages 7-17 with mental illness that yield their ability to lead a normal life. I have had the privilege of working in the ‘healing garden’ where the children come to experience the healing benefits of nature.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 44 million Americans experience mental illness every year. Coping with a child’s mental health illness and finding the appropriate treatment are difficult tasks when a family is under stress. You are not alone.

Unfortunately, the stigma of mental health often discourages people from seeking help. If a child has leukemia, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or asthma, the family gets support and compassion, but families of mentally ill children hear accusations and judgment from all sides. At Trillium, we strive to help families combat this stigma and seek the care that will allow their children to lead happy, healthy lives.Standing up and speaking out about mental and behavioral health, acknowledging that we are all affected by the two, and understanding that our struggles are often at the root of our power, reduces stigma and gives strength to those who may be feeling isolated by their own experiences in the world. Sometimes it only takes a little compassion to save someone’s life.


However, there is one important difference between mental health and physical health: a mental illness manifests itself through behavior and mood. Even today, mental illness is often looked upon as a character flaw rather than a treatable condition that can be effectively managed. But we do know that mental illness IS treatable, especially in children.

What if we treated physical illness like we treated mental illness?

Trillium Success Story (

Doug walked in the door, and his grandparents could see the results of a tough day.

His frustration was building. His grandparents feared the family was returning to square one, and the more frightened they grew, the more frightened Doug became, starting a downward spiral.

The last time Doug’s family was at square one was six months earlier. When Doug and his grandparents were referred to Trillium Family Services, Doug was a 10- year-old boy suffering from deep depression and threatening violence. Doug couldn’t make or keep friends. He was disruptive in school and at home. His tantrums were the kind you see in a 2-year-old, only in a 10-year-old body.

Our treatment team assessed Doug’s needs and designed a complete treatment plan. Therapy staff learned that Doug’s depression stemmed from a chemical imbalance that was exacerbated because he couldn’t sleep. Treatment staff addressed Doug’s sleep problems early. By sleeping well, Doug gained the physical strength to begin the therapy process.

Other medication helped with the depression, and he built his self-esteem through positive experiences, such as participating in our therapeutic horse program. Family therapy involved the grandparents in the process, and in-home skills trainers taught the grandparents how to manage Doug’s condition.

When Doug returned home to stay, the turnaround was remarkable. He improved at school, began making and keeping friends, and took part in activities once closed to him.

Trillium takes both a preventative and a treatment based approach so that there is no relapse when the treatment is over. I will remain a community partner and hope to get a job working in one of the children’s units when I return to Oregon in the Fall.