2022 Journeys Magazine

Grateful Families

Families of graduates stay connected to Skyland Trail in many ways. They speak to other families considering treatment, support families through peer support in STEP, or share their stories in the community. Many families make charitable gifts to help others access and complete treatment. We are thankful for our Grateful Families.

Stepping Back to Help Our Daughter Move Forward

Tina and Peter W., parents of an adult program graduate

In 2017, our daughter was struggling badly. She was working with a therapist and psychiatrist, but she didn’t seem to be making any progress. When her providers suggested residential treatment, they were unable to give us recommendations for specific places, which left us feeling completely blind as we searched for the right program.

When we found Skyland Trail, it struck a chord with us. It was both professional and welcoming, and we were drawn to the fact that the Rollins Campus was geared toward young adults.

Peter and Tina W.
Peter and Tina W.

As a patient, our daughter absorbed a great deal from her classes and developed a bag of tools that allowed her to more fully engage in a positive and productive way. Her vocabulary changed with the adoption of the phrase, “Yes, AND…” that gave her the ability to accept several views at the same time. With these lessons, she came away with an understanding that she CAN engage with the world and deal with it.

As parents, we had to change too. The biggest challenge was stepping back from our caretaking role for our daughter. We hadn’t always been sure when to step in. “Do I make that appointment for her?” “Do I lease that apartment?” We understand that there are some things that our daughter must do for herself, and we are working hard - and getting better at - taking a step back and allowing her that control.

Among other things, the last six years have taught us patience and the power of hope. Our daughter has been at Skyland Trail on two occasions now, and she will need to continue to work on her mental health beyond her time as a patient there. But we know that, thanks to the education and the tools she learned at Skyland, she has the ability to get better.

"...we chose to make our first gift to Skyland Trail in honor of the staff who work there and who supported our daughter’s journey."

We also now understand that mental illnesses are medical conditions—a concept that Skyland Trail’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ray Kotwicki, explained to us at Family Orientation. This was an epiphany for us and helped us to recognize that it’s not about willpower or pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. With that realization, we gained renewed hope for our daughter knowing that as a medical condition, her mental illness was treatable.

During our daughter’s second admission to Skyland Trail, we had a better appreciation of all of the different departments and staff members who were working in tandem to help ensure that she was receiving the best care possible. From the psychiatrists to the therapists, to the financial counselors and appeals with our insurance company, we felt that there was an entire team at Skyland Trail supporting our family every step of the way.

For this reason, we chose to make our first gift to Skyland Trail in honor of the staff who work there and who supported our daughter’s journey. We feel that those living with mental illness too often go unseen and do not get the treatment that they need. We wanted our donation to help others find their path toward recovery.

An Extraordinary Journey

Beth, mother of an adolescent program graduate

I finally understood that my daughter’s mental illness was not something that my husband and I could fix after she attempted suicide by overdosing on her medication. The experience was nothing short of traumatizing, and I felt powerless in that moment.

It has been more than a year since that evening, and I am struck by the extraordinary journey that led to us to Skyland Trail and to the tremendous growth and healing that our family has experienced.

My daughter is artistic and empathetic. She is extroverted and popular. I never had to worry about her making friends at school or in her extracurricular activities. But with teenagers, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between normal boundary testing and behavior that is escalating into something more concerning. As her episodes of intense feelings and impulsive behaviors became more frequent and extreme, we found ourselves on a hamster wheel that we didn’t know how to stop.

As we began looking into various treatment options and talking with friends and family members, I was amazed by how many others who had loved ones who were struggling or who were struggling themselves. During those conversations, all of the isolation and loneliness that we had felt for so long seemed to disappear – we were not alone.

After a year into the pandemic and attending school remotely, my daughter entered Skyland Trail’s adolescent program during her senior year of high school. While there, she began the hard work toward recovery. It was not always easy, but little by little we started to see changes in her outlook and in her interactions with us. We were actively engaged in family therapy, and we learned together how to reframe narratives and work toward understanding each other’s individual interpretations of our discussions. We all learned new communication techniques that helped us find common ground.

Since completing treatment, our daughter has finished her freshman year, and we credit her hard work and Skyland Trail for helping her gain the tools and skills to help her manage her symptoms. At Skyland Trail, she was able to participate in both CBT and DBT groups, work with a counselor she trusted, and interact with peers who were dealing with similar issues. Because of the education track, she also was able to keep up with her high school classes and graduate on time.

Doubtful person, hands on hips, choosing the way as multiple arrows on the road showing a mess of different directions. Choosing the correct pathway, difficult decision concept, confusion symbol.

"My husband and I were not fully equipped to handle our daughter’s struggles with mental health, but with guidance and education from Skyland Trail, we were able to find a path to healing."

While she was at Skyland Trail, our daughter also began to understand the negative impact that vaping and marijuana use had on her mental and physical health. This education was a pivotal piece of her recovery and has helped sustain her motivation to stay focused on her path to wellness. Substance misuse is so prevalent among teens these days, and we are grateful to Skyland Trail for helping our daughter break the cycle of this habit.

We live out of state, but when our friends in Atlanta invited us to join them at Skyland Trail’s Benefits of Laughter event, we immediately said yes. We became silver sponsors for the event because we wanted our names to be included among the grateful individuals and families who support Skyland Trail’s mission and the work they do.

It is important for us to be transparent about our journey because it has had such a profound impact on our family, and there is no shame in it. My husband and I were not fully equipped to handle our daughter’s struggles with mental health, but with guidance and education from Skyland Trail, we were able to find a path to healing. I want others to know that they, too, are not alone, and it is okay to need help and to ask for it. There are wonderful resources out there, and there is no need to suffer in silence.

Thank You to Our Event Sponsors


DID YOU KNOW? In 2022, 168 Grateful Families made a gift to Skyland Trail.