Why we do what we do

Patient looks to pay it forward

Victoria first noticed her depression when she was 12. By the time she reached her 15th birthday, the feelings of anxiety turned darker. 

“I was having a lot of suicidal thoughts. I had been in therapy before, but was never able to open up with anybody,” she said. “I let everything pile up inside for a while until I finally decided to open up to somebody, and I got sent to the hospital. It needed to be done.” 

The high school sophomore spent almost a month at St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Center where fear of opening up and talking about her self-loathing kept her isolated. All this did was extend her stay. 

“I remember the first week I just sat in the corner and wouldn’t speak to anybody. Nobody was able to talk to me. I wouldn’t respond. It took a while, but they were very patient with me,” Victoria remembered. 

Patient-centric care takes many forms. For patients into music, behavioral health colleagues might find a guitar. If they enjoy exercise, they might set up a small yoga class. When it came to Victoria, her passion was art. 

“They had a really nice art therapy program (with) groups that would meet two or three times a week. That was the first time I had heard of art therapy,” she said. “I just thought it was so cool (and) definitely an effective thing for a lot of people. Just to be able to express themselves, and really gain a healing at the same time.” 

Over the next two years, Victoria returned to St. Vincent’s six more times. Sometimes, there was only a two-week break in between stays. As her feelings of anxiety continued, so, too, would the desire to express herself through art. Eventually, something clicked and she realized art was a gateway toward recovery. 

Now, at age 19, Victoria is ready for a new adventure — college and a degree in art therapy.

“College was one of my biggest motivators to get better and improve. It was a good way to say ‘I am done with this chapter of my life,’” she said. “I always wanted to work with people, to help them in some way. I considered going to school for psychology, but, ultimately, art therapy was the perfect blend of everything I wanted to do.” 

Depressed, anxious, suicidal – that’s how Victoria saw herself on her first admission to St. Vincent’s. Four years later, she is not only working on her own recovery but looking to help others with theirs. Victoria found her calling, forming a special bond with the Westport team. 

“They all know me so well. I honestly considered them family, and can say I am so grateful to them,” she noted. 

The gratitude swings both ways. 

“Hearing such a success story makes a job I already love that much more rewarding,” said Linda Scillia, BSN, charge nurse Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Unit. “Having the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives while they are going through a difficult time is what motivates me every day. Seeing her success, and knowing I played a part in encouraging her to help others in a similar way as a future career completely warms my heart!” 

Victoria, who’s now in college studying art therapy, helped paint a mural at the St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Center when she was a patient there.