Melissa & Carson Oates

First post: May 15, 2018 Latest post: May 25, 2018
Welcome to a CaringBridge website I've set up to update interested parties on Melissa and Carson's story who may not be Facebook friends. I know they will appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting. If you'd like to support them monetarily, I've set up a Go Fund Me campaign at // 

On Friday, April 20th, Melissa got a call from the school's afterstay program telling her that her 11-year-old son, Carson, had confided in a teacher that he was having suicidal thoughts. They recommended she take him to the ER to be evaluated. They were admitted and spent the weekend at the hospital waiting for a bed at Marshall Pickens. 

On the 24th, Melissa wrote on Facebook: 
"Carson was admitted to Marshall Pickens this afternoon. Average stay is 6-7 days, but it could be as short as 3-5 days. It's rough for all of us because we can't stay with him all the time.

But if it helps him, it will be worth it.

I mostly want him to look back at this experience in a positive light. Not as a good memory. But I don't want it to be a threat ("Remember the hospital? You don't want to end up in there again, so you'd better not say anything."). Instead, I want him to know he has people he can trust who will help him ("Remember the hospital? You got better, so let's tell someone what's going on.").

To that end, I'd like to be as open as possible about this so that Carson knows that mental illness is a thing that happens (to a lot of people), and it's nothing to be ashamed of. If you've had experience with this, please don't be afraid to share it with him, or with anyone who may be struggling. We all just want to know that we're not alone."

Carson was discharged on April 30th and Melissa posted:
"Since Carson's crisis a week and a half ago, I've learned that at least 8 of my friends have been through this same thing with their children. I wouldn't have known about most of them if I had not shared what we were going through. I now have 8 friends I can go to for advice or questions or just for an empathetic listening ear.

If your child has an ear infection or breaks a bone or gets diagnosed with cancer, isn't it nice to be able to ask other parents what worked for their kids, hear what doctors they sing praises for, have support from other parents who have been there?

If you are sick, don't you want people to help you? Get medicine to make you better? Take time off work to heal?

It seems like a tired phrase sometimes, but don't we tell people that if they're feeling depressed, they should talk to someone? A friend, a therapist?

Isn't the best person to talk to sometimes the one who's been where you are?

But how are we supposed to know who's been there if no one talks about it?

There are 6 spots for children and adolescents at Marshall Pickens. All of them were taken the whole time Carson was there. Carson waited 4 days for his spot. Someone else waited a week. I know 8 people personally who have had children in a similar situation. This is a thing that happens. To children. To us. We shouldn't deprive ourselves of help and support because of shame or fear. No one wants to know that someone they love ever wanted to kill themselves, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

You all know where we have been, what we have been through, what we continue to go through. If you ever need to, please use me. Ask me questions. Talk, and I will listen. Tell me your story and offer advice."

Despite being discharged, Carson continued to have bad days. On May 3rd, Melissa posted this:
"Today is a bad day, a definite downer on the roller coaster of Carson's (and, by extension, our) mental health. He wants to kill himself. Still? Again? So I picked him up from school. We hugged and cuddled and talked a bit (including reminders about active listening and how it applies to him as well as whoever he's talking to).

We discussed his safety plan, things that make him feel better, coping strategies he can use when he doesn't have those things.

He says hugs make him feel better, from family, friends, teachers, whoever. I told him that it's okay to approach people and tell them that he's feeling sad and wants a hug. Since he struggles with communication, it might help him if you offer hugs when you notice that he's feeling down, or even if he seems fine. It might help other people, too. (Just remember that no means no, and no one owes you a hug.)

He says TV and video games make him feel better. Since those are obviously not going to be available in all situations, he expanded that to things that take his mind off of his bad thoughts, things like reading or talking (not just about feelings, even though talking about feelings is also undoubtedly extremely important).

At the end of it he said he was less sad, which is all I can ask for. I stopped myself from asking if he feels better because he needs to know that there is no magical fix to make all of his bad thoughts go away all at once. He needs to know that sometimes it takes baby steps, that if he can feel less sad than he feels at any given moment, that that is progress, and that is good. And next time we'll have a new starting point, or maybe the same one, and that's okay, too, because we have ways to help him feel a little bit less sad.

So right now, I'm not okay. I'm a mess. But I'm going to hug my son and watch Pokemon with him and see my daughter dressed up in her ballet costume and know that I am not alone, and by the end of it, maybe I'll feel a little bit less sad."

Then on May 9th, Melissa was back at the ER with Carson:
"Yesterday I was going to write about Rorie. I got a phone call from the school saying she had been asking other kids to choke her because there's no point to living. She also told the administrator and the guidance councilor that she's scared Carson is going to hurt her, and even that he tried to kill her with a knife once (when she was 3; it didn't happen).

It feels to me like she wants attention. She's worried about Carson, yes, and herself as far as what will happen to her if something happens to Carson. But I think she's also upset and frustrated and jealous that Carson is getting so much of my attention. I'm having to spend time almost every day talking Carson down, so to speak, and when I'm done, there's no time and no emotional fortitude left for me to deal with Rorie.

Then Carson started trying to wrap things around his neck last night, so we ended up back in the ER. We're in the exact same position as we were not even 3 weeks ago: waiting for a room at a mental health facility to open up. We're hoping it will go faster this time because it's not the weekend yet, but if it doesn't happen tomorrow, then it probably won't until at least Monday.

We haven't even started therapy yet. We had our first appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning. So I can't even say whether therapy might help or how quickly.

I don't know what we need, aside from a clone or more time or faster mental health care. I'm tired. I'm scared. I'm frustrated. I'm perpetually on the verge of tears. I desperately wish I could give Carson a pill and say some magic words and make everything go back to normal. In the meantime, I'm putting one foot in front of the other and just hoping to make it to the other side in one piece."

They again spent the weekend in the hospital:
"To add to the list of things I have learned about mental health care: Apparently psychiatric emergencies are only expected to happen during office hours.

We're still in pediatrics, waiting for in-patient placement at a mental health facility. I figured on Friday when nothing happened that we would likely be here at least through the weekend. Turnover doesn't happen much on weekends because part of the requirement for discharge is having outpatient psych appointments scheduled, and you can't make those appointments on weekends. It's inconvenient and not really fair, but life's not fair and it kind-of makes sense.

Then yesterday (Saturday), Carson had a bad day. The suicidal thoughts were in full force. I would have considered taking him to the ER if we were at home, but we're already here, so I went to the nurse's station to ask them to call a doctor or psychiatrist or therapist or something, because Carson needed help, WE needed help.

The doctor came in a little bit later, talked to Carson alone, talked to me. She said they'd made several calls to the on-call psych team, but they hadn't heard anything back yet. Okay. If it requires someone on call, then it's not going to be immediate. I get that. But then she said that they don't always respond on nights and weekends.

THE ON-CALL PSYCH TEAM DOES NOT ALWAYS RESPOND TO CALLS ON NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS. (Yes, I know it challenges your perceived definition of the term "on-call".)

There was a psychiatrist on staff in the ER. So I guess it's enough to determine whether someone who presents to the ER with psychiatric symptoms needs more help, but they can wait to receive that help? Or something.

It confuses me because I know that anesthesiologists, for example, are on call sometimes. So surely if someone needs surgery, it can wait until Monday? And if it's a life-or-death necessity, then they can do it without anesthesiology, right? I mean, yeah, it'll hurt, but for the convenience of someone who works 9-5 Monday-Friday...

So just an FYI. Try not to have a psychiatric emergency on the weekend. You can save yourself some time and money by waiting until Monday morning."