A Survivor’s Story: Teen shares struggles with mental health
Haley Snell is your typical teenager. She is involved in many activities including soccer and color guard. Haley also has a health condition which has resulted in several hospital visits.
This health challenge also brought on a new set of emotions. Emotions that left Haley feeling like she should end her life.
“It’s not always how you picture it. I was happy all throughout the day. I could put a smile on my face. I could hang out with friends. But when I got home at night, the thoughts that came into my head, these thoughts told me I was worthless all the time. These thoughts told me that eventually the world would be better off without me,” she said.
On May 8, 2021, Haley gave in to those thoughts and attempted suicide by taking more than 100 pills. She did this even with parents at home.
“I fell asleep on the couch,” Haley said. “I was dying next to my family. And no one knew it. All I remember from that night was that my dog actually alerted my dad. My dad went into my bathroom, and I was laying on the floor lifeless.”
She spent the next few days fighting for her life. Once she recovered, she and her family faced another challenge. Because of Haley’s medical diagnosis, she could not get inpatient mental health services.
“We were given a sheet with a bunch of different numbers you call,” Haley said. “We were told ‘you need therapy. You need it bad. Here is this list. Go find it.’ Not really giving us any help. I remember the first few days after calling these numbers on the list, it was weird conversations, we would sit there and have this back-and-forth conversation. They would be like, ‘you need help. You need therapy, You need it now. You need it as soon as possible’ but the soonest as we can get it to you is five months from now.”
That’s not unusual, and that’s part of the problem.
“There definitely is a difference in getting a provider for therapy services versus seeing a psychiatrist. There is definitely a physician shortage nationwide but especially in Alabama,” said Laura Reeves with River Oaks Health.
The maze to find mental health services for Haley involved everyone in her life working together to find the help she needed.
For quite some time following her suicide attempt life at home looked much different for Haley. All medicines were taken out of the home. She could not be left alone. And for awhile, she said she hated her dog because of its role in saving her life.
But all that changed once she found the right therapist.
“You need to be in an established relationship with your therapist to be able to connect with them and easily build rapport,” Reeves said. “If you don’t have that connection, it’s OK to ask for another one. The same with medication. You need to find one that is a good fit for you.”
Getting better was a constant fight against herself, Haley said.
“For several months I had to fight. I had to fight every day,” Haley said. “It was one of those things where I had to tell myself, ‘one more day.’ The ‘one more day’ turned into me telling myself I could make it through the next few hours. Then as things got worse, I told myself you have to make it through the next few minutes. You have to make it through the next few seconds. Just reminding myself that every second we stay is another second that we are winning.”
And Haley is winning with her life now. Before her suicide attempt, Haley said her family didn’t talk about mental health in their home. Now it is a constant topic.
Thanks to her therapist’s guidance, she’s learned about the help of coping skills like baking and loving on her four-legged family members.
When life gets hard, though, Haley has a constant reminder on her wrist that helps her get through the tough times.
Haley shares this tattoo with her dad. He simply has a semicolon which represents their decision to carry on. And Haley has a blue butterfly and the phrase “it’s OK to not be OK.”
WVUA 23 will continue to highlight issues surrounding mental health throughout the month of May which is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs help, a new nationwide hotline has been established. Anyone can call 988 to get help.
- Part 2: Mental health maze: Finding the right therapist: May 5, 2023