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Teen Displaced by War Receives Treatment for PTSD

post-traumatic stress disorder

Holly Smith of KVC HospitalsThis story was selected as a winner during our 2017 summer story contest and was submitted by Holly Smith, Therapist at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital.  


A 17-year-old boy named Ivan was brought to KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital for psychiatric treatment. Ivan and his family had immigrated to the United States from Ukraine only a couple of months prior to his admission to the hospital. He was in a new country and knew very little English. Ivan struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the acts of war he had witnessed in his homeland. He also heard voices that told him to harm others. Ivan felt scared and alone, unable to communicate the troubles he was having with anyone. He ran away from home multiple times in a misguided effort to escape his problems.

When Ivan arrived at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital, he was scared. He had never been in a children’s psychiatric hospital before and none of the staff could speak his language. Our entire staff collaborated and pulled together as a team to determine how we could best meet Ivan’s needs. We acquired interpreting services to ensure Ivan’s treatment team could speak with him and assess his needs. One team member went out and got a book that Ivan requested and brought it back to the hospital. The book was printed in Ukrainian, and having something familiar to him brought him comfort. Ivan’s mother and sister had several questions and concerns about why he was suddenly not acting like “himself.” They were scared too, and staff worked to answer their questions and reassure them that Ivan was in the right place.

Ivan’s treatment team rallied around him, making sure he received the help he so desperately needed. KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital was a safe, quiet place for him to recuperate and heal, and he began showing signs of improvement. Ivan was surrounded by caring staff who were there to comfort him through the ups and downs of his treatment. Medication was introduced to help stabilize Ivan and help him realize that he didn’t want to hurt people. In therapy, we worked through some of the traumatic events he witnessed in Ukraine and discussed how those traumatic experiences affected his brain. After only one week of treatment, Ivan’s sister wrote a four-page letter stating the positive differences she was seeing in her brother. She was very skeptical in the beginning, but in the end, she was thankful to the team for all of the help her brother had received.

My last day of meeting with Ivan before his discharge from treatment was truly enjoyable. He laughed, made jokes and stated that he felt safe and happy again. Ivan returned home with his family with a plan to successfully manage his post-traumatic stress disorder and illness. Ivan’s transformation was remarkable and I am happy to be part of a team of caring individuals who make a positive difference for our fellow humans, no matter what obstacles may need to be hurdled.

*Name has been changed and a stock photo has been used to protect Ivan’s identity. 

KVC Hospitals provides behavioral health services for children and teens ages 6-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges. Each year, we help thousands of youth through our network of inpatient hospitals and psychiatric residential facilities by providing treatment, care, and skill-building so they can understand their diagnoses, connect to their support network and thrive.

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