Breaking News
More () »

Kids in Crisis | 13-year-old shares experience waiting in local ERs amid mental health crisis

13-year-old Sienna was stuck in overcrowded emergency rooms awaiting care.

For the last few months, 13-year-old Sienna Stadtmueller has been honing recipes for bath bombs and soaps to start a business with a purpose that goes far beyond personal hygiene.

"The soaps are all named after different mental illnesses, because I'm promoting awareness for them," said Stadtmueller, who invited KARE 11 into one of her bath bomb-making sessions this week. "I wanted to do a lavender chamomile one, because it's calming for people who have anxiety."

Throughout much of the pandemic, Sienna struggled to navigate her own severe anxiety and depression, and it led to a mental health crisis in December 2020.

"It was the first time that it felt like an emergency," said Sienna's mom, Jill Stadtmueller. "It became a situation where she's sad, mad, or throwing a temper tantrum. It became a situation where, if I don't do something about this now, she's going to end up injured or in the ER for another reason."

Kent Erdahl: "When you're in the middle of it, can you describe how it feels?"

Sienna: "It's just like you're lost, like you can't even find who you are and you're just stuck there, and it's just like... You don't know what's going to happen."

That feeling of uncertainty grew as the pandemic continued. Waitlists for both inpatient and outpatient help grew so long, that crowded ERs continued to be the only option.

Jill: "The last two visits we were there for about three days... in the ER."

Kent: "Did you ever feel like, what am I doing here?"

Sienna: "Yeah. That's definitely what I felt like. I felt really guilty just sitting there, because I was wondering if there was someone who was on life support who needed to be in the ER now and I was taking up that spot there."

RELATED: Kids in Crisis | MN day treatment providers join forces to seek help as waitlists for youth services grow

And once she was admitted into the hospital, Jill says the same, frustrating cycle continued to play out.

"I feel like the goal in those environments is to get you out of there pretty quick," Jill said. "And then you're sent home on a new med and a follow up with your psychiatrist. But your psychiatrist is so busy that you can't talk to them but every couple of weeks. Every time that we've done that it hasn't been successful. We end up getting off the meds and then the problem has become, what do we do when we have a crisis again?"

Jill knew an out-patient, day treatment program might finally bring that long-term solution for Sienna, but she, like countless others, continued to face even longer waits.

Jill: "We had to go through nine months, basically, to get where we are now, where she has a place to go that feels like it's the right level of care for her."

Kent: "Sienna, there aren't many kids your age who would have the courage to speak publicly about it. Why are you choosing to do that?"

Sienna: "I want to help other people who are like me and need the help, and I feel horrible just sitting around doing nothing. I really want to get to the root of the problem and fix it."

For now, that means creating an Etsy site for her "Suds n’ Buds" soaps and bath bombs, with a 25% of proceeds going to a mental health non-profit.

"The soaps are all named after different mental illnesses," Sienna said. "Because I'm promoting awareness for them."

Sienna and Jill are also hoping to bring awareness to Minnesota legislators, as they consider proposals to increase critical funding for community mental health professionals.

"My hope is that it will be easier for people all around to get help," Sienna said.

RELATED: Wellness program helps to restore school staff mental health

Watch more Breaking The News:

Watch all of the latest stories from Breaking The News in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out