It wasn’t until her family found Susie hanging by the neck in her bedroom that they discovered she had a mental health problem.

Unknown to her parents, Susie had obsessive thoughts about killing herself that overwhelmed her. Like many people who suffer with mental illness, she hid the warning signs from her parents.

On the outside, this 15-year-old girl was bright, articulate, gifted in school and other activities. But her racing, sometimes horrible thoughts took their toll. She isolated herself from friends and family; increasingly, she wouldn’t leave her room. Susie deteriorated as her body wore down under the stress.

She discovered that if she choked herself, she could release the tension that consumed her body. Nightmarishly, she found an escape from her condition, which was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder. When her family found her, Susie was near death. She was hospitalized and had improved slightly when she came to Trillium Family Services’ residential program.

A key component of treatment at Trillium involves creating a safe, comfortable environment where children and their families share freely, and it was during a family therapy session that Susie learned she wasn’t alone. Susie’s uncle also had the disorder, but he never told his family.

He had managed it and turned it into an asset in his profession, which demanded an exact attention to detail. Susie’s uncle was never comfortable enough to talk about his disorder.

But in the proper atmosphere, and with his niece in pain, he finally revealed his secret. The disclosure marked a breakthrough for the family and a turning point for Susie. She saw firsthand that her condition could be managed and gained confidence that, with help, life would get better.