From the time Jen brought her daughter Tori home from the hospital, she knew something wasn’t quite right. Tori was agitated and would scream all night.

As she grew, Tori would have large outbursts with violent tendencies. “She was always very dark and negative when she spoke,” recalls Jen. “I remember, as early as kindergarten, Tori saying ‘I don’t want to be here’ or ‘I don’t think I deserve to have a life.’”

Jen was a single mother on state insurance who sought help for her daughter. But with limited access to experienced therapists who would work with Tori consistently, they weren’t making any progress. “We would work with a therapist for two or three months, then they’d leave for a better job, and we’d start over with someone new.”

Then came the day when Tori tried to choke her teacher. “She was on top of her teacher, and the police were called,” says Jen. Following protocol, the school sent Tori in an ambulance to the nearest hospital for evaluation and called her parents to go meet her.

Tori was placed in a wing of the Emergency Department of the nearest adult hospital. “She was surrounded by adult patients who were screaming and throwing things,” says Jen. “They treated us like criminals. Where do you turn to? Where do you scream at somebody, ‘My daughter needs help?!’”

Tori remembers how she felt: “I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was in trouble,” she says, as her voice quakes and tears start. “I didn’t think anything could help me.”

When the next outburst occurred, Jen drove Tori to Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department. “After what we experienced in the adult hospital, there’s no way I ever wanted her to experience that again.”

The team members in the Emergency Behavioral Health Services (EBHS) unit were caring and soft-spoken. “They saw Tori as this person who needed help in that moment,” says Jen, “and at no point in time, was she made to feel like she was wrong in how she was feeling or what she was going through.”

While still in the EBHS unit, Connecticut Children’s connected Jen with the local pediatric behavioral health resources Tori needed. Soon, she was diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. As Jen explains it, “Tori doesn’t know how to process emotions—others’ and her own.”

Ongoing behavioral health care also revealed that Tori suffers from social anxiety. A coordinated program of therapy and closely monitored medication has given Tori an opportunity for a different childhood experience than she had in her first nine years: “It’s just so hard to go through all of this stuff,” says Tori. “I just want to be a normal kid with a normal life.”