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Maria5891 11-10-2017 08:22 PM

PTSD and hallucinations
I’m concerned about a student I teach- she’s a 17-year senior in high school struggling with what seems to be PTSD from watching her mother almost die two years ago. One top of that, she’s dealing with emotional and verbal abuse from both her parents, chronic sleep deprivation, and hallucinations. The hallucinations she describes involve "knowing someone is watching you and you see them out of the corner of your eye but no one is actually there when you look” and, "hearing gibberish… It’s the same voice, and it’s sick and psychotic, and there’s laughing and screaming and words that don’t make sense (yet somehow I know that they have bad intentions- that they are harmful and degrading and twisted...I know that the person saying them is crazy and that they are amused with themselves, and that they know all of my deepest and darkest fears and want to use those things to break me down...I don’t know how I know it but I just do”

The hallucinations seem to be getting more frequent and worse, and sleeping has become more and more difficult to her. Last year, I encouraged her to talk to her parents about getting her to a therapist. Her parents responded horribly. They threatened to lock her in her room until she was “cured”, took away her car keys and told her she couldn’t leave the house, and taunted her with jokes about her being suicidal. It was a rough couple of weeks, but they eventually relented and agreed to get her to a therapist. Unfortunately, the therapist they chose for her wasn’t helpful. The therapist openly shared information from sessions with the parents, at which point the trust was broken. The student stopped therapy soon after.

After the terrible response her parents gave the first time she asked to see a therapist, I haven’t encouraged her to try asking her parents again about therapy. I also know that if I shared my concerns with her parents, that her parents would also react poorly. From what I know about them, I could see them punishing her for “making a scene” at school and making the teachers worry. They have forbade her from talking to anyone about her PTSD, hallucinations, etc.

We’re a small school, and don’t have any resources on campus for her. We don’t have a counselor or nurse. Both the principal and vice principal are aware of the situation, but haven’t been any help. So far, my plan has been to be a sounding board for the student, and to encourage her to keep talking about the things she’s going through with me and others. I’ve told her that talking about these things over and over can help make these things lose their power.
I’ve also encouraged her to seek out mental health resources on campus next year when she goes to college. I’m hoping she can hold out until then. While she’s going through a lot, she is high-functioning. I don’t know what else can be done right now. Do you have any advice on resources that can help her cope with this until she’s out of the house and able to seek treatment on her own?

eeza 11-11-2017 10:28 AM

PTSD and hallucinations
Poor thing! It's a shame that her parents are more supportive (I assume a step-mom is in the picture).

When does she turn 18? That will make a difference because at that point she is an adult and can make her own decisions.

Is she in danger of harming herself or others? Has she ever been 5150'd?

You say she's high functioning. Is she passing all of her classes? If not, then a 504 may be something to look at or even SPED assessment under emotional disturbance if she is really impacted.

And that therapist should be reported! That is unethical and she completely broke confidentiality. I may give a general "Johnny is actively participating in counseling" but I don't divulge anything confidential unless I have the student's consent.

Maria5891 11-11-2017 12:45 PM

She turns 18 in a couple of months. This is one reason why I haven't taken this to Child Protective Services, since she's so close to being an adult.

She is not in danger of harming herself or others. Just to clarify, she's has never been suicidal. Her parents assumed the only reason she would want to go to therapy is for that, which is why they joked about her being suicidal. I have asked her point-blank several times if she's ever thought about hurting herself, and she's always said she would never consider it. She wants to live and she wants to get better.
She has never been 5150'd. She's extremely high-functioning, and makes A's in her classes. I don't know how much longer she'll be able to maintain this, though.

eeza 11-11-2017 03:26 PM

PTSD and hallucinations
You can still contact CPS. It's likely nothing will happen because she is so close to 18, but it will be documented. Also, I have called Adult Protective Services before for a student who was 18 so you can consider that in a few months.

If her grades slip and she begins to fail, look into a 504. Hopefully that doesn't happen and she keeps her mood up. It's a sad case all around, especially since her parents are joking about her being suicidal. What jerks!

Maria5891 11-12-2017 01:57 PM

If CPS/APS were to get involved, what could/would they do at this point?

I've talked to the principal and vice principal at length about this... the main reason the principal and vice principal haven't done anything to help is because they are skeptical of her story. I believe the student completely, but they think she's exaggerating and things aren't as bad as she's making it out to be. This is another reason why I've hesitated to contact Child Protective Services. If both the principal and vice principal don't see any evidence of abuse, there's a chance CPS might not either. It sounds like a big risk to me. We're a small community, so it will be easy for the parents to figure out who reported them, at which point I know they will homeschool her, and cut off her lifeline to supportive people.

jady_marie 11-12-2017 02:45 PM

You are a mandated reporter. This circumstance could be turned around on you if this situation is not reported. It does not matter if your principal does not believe the girl or if other staff think the girl is exaggerating. Making a call is the right thing to do if you feel it in your gut that this girl needs more help. Familly services will make a visit and that might prompt the family to help her more.

eeza 11-12-2017 03:38 PM

I also forgot to mention that you can call CPS for a consultation. Explain the situation and they will let you know if they need to take a report or not.

Maria5891 11-13-2017 04:21 PM

That's a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.
Thanks everyone for the advice. There aren't many people who I can talk to about this, and the ones I have talked to aren't taking this situation seriously. Thank you for confirming what I already felt- that this is a serious situation that requires immediate attention.

Maria5891 11-18-2017 03:57 PM

After talking to a teacher-friend, I've gotten cold feet about calling CPS. They say that I'm taking a chance that the student is exaggerating, and that if the abuse is real, the student should make the call. If she is exaggerating, it could be a legal nightmare for me. The parents are powerful in the community, and on the school board. Even though my report would be anonymous, it would be very easy for the parents to guess I made the call. And without the backing of the administration, I'm even more vulnerable.

I understand completely why a child wouldn't want to make the call to CPS, even if they are being abused and desperately need help. Most children do need an adult to step in and make the call for them. But I also know that I'm taking a big risk by calling, and will risk losing my job. I also think there's a big risk that the family will pull their children out of the school and homeschool them, leaving them even more isolated.

My thinking is to give the student an ultimatum and tell her that either she calls CPS or I do. I want to do everything I can to encourage her to make the call. Can you give me advice on what to say to her? What can she expect CPS to do after she makes the call? How can they help her and her family? (Eg can they require counseling?) I have never called CPS before so I don't know what to expect. If I could tell the student what to expect, she might be less hesitant about calling.

eeza 11-25-2017 12:43 PM

calling CPS

I have never called CPS before so I don't know what to expect. If I could tell the student what to expect, she might be less hesitant about calling.
They'll ask for basic info like name, DOB, address, school name, etc. They'll also want to know about the incident like what happened, when it happened, etc.

I've called and sometimes nothing comes of it. It really depends.

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