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Med Beat: Some kids spend holidays in mental hospitals

Med Beat: Some kids spend holidays in mental hospitals

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Medical and physician assistant students doing their rotations through Carilion Clinic’s psychiatric hospital are hoping to make the holidays a little brighter for children and teens.

Mia McDonald, a PA student at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, contacted me to ask if I could post something about their effort.

Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog post “The forgotten ward: Mentally ill kids need toys, too” about children and teens with brain illnesses that require treatment in a locked facility. Their rooms are bare, stripped of anything that might be turned into a weapon of self-harm, and their visitors are limited. The community supply of books and games were depleted from much use.

Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, who runs the ward, said the outpouring last year of toys, games, books and clothes was heartwarming. Home Depot wanted to do even more, and in February, volunteers painted chalkboard walls on the patients’ rooms.

While Jefferson College and Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School students participated in raising money to buy gifts for children in Carilion Children’s, McDonald said they are also hoping to raise additional funds and or supplies for use in the psychiatric ward.

The kids have a structured day of therapy and school work, but also have time for reading and playing games.

Wilson’s wish list this year includes: chalk, new stuffed animals (kids can’t bring their own because of infection-control policies), Wii and Xbox controllers and games, headphones, Nintendo DS game system and games, sports bras without underwire, pajamas without strings, long-sleeve T-shirts, playing cards, puzzles, board games and age-appropriate movies.

Donations can be dropped off at the Carilion Clinic rehab building at 2017 S. Jefferson St.

McDonald said they also set up a GoFundMe account for those who prefer to donate money that will be used for the purchase items. They are raising the funds on their own and are not part of a sanctioned school project, she said.

I met Wilson when doing interviews for stories on teens with mental illnesses. Here are links to several stories on the adolescents' brains function, how to tell what's normal and where to look for help it's not.

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