Jolynn Bartlett traces her suicidal daughter’s troubles back to the break-up of her own marriage.
“Emily has struggled with depression since she was little, since her father left,” said Jolynn Bartlett, mother of 12-year-old Emily Bartlett, the Bolingbrook girl who is receiving long-term care at a facility in Kankakee after threatening to commit suicide for the second time in her young life.
“It’s sad,” Jolynn Bartlett said. “She’s so young and hasn’t been able to pull through this and get to the other side.”
Emily Bartlett’s older sister, Danielle Armknecht, is working long distance from her home in Texas to turn the tables through a Facebook campaign: Letters for Emily. Danielle is asking people to write Emily and share their words of hope while also trying to draw attention to the frightening reality of youth and teen suicide.
“This incident—it’s actually the second time,” Jolynn Bartlett said. “The first was about two years ago. She shouted, ‘I’m going to kill myself.’ I don’t think she meant it. She was angry with me. It was an attention-getter. But she still went to the hospital anyway—the DCSF worker said she had to—and stayed a couple weeks. She claimed she didn’t need the help.
“Then, most recently—she connects with things online very easily—like her favorite bands. And she said she wanted to kill herself when a band member died. She posted on Instagram that in eight days she was going to commit suicide.
“Well, it was a couple of very brave girls at her school (Bolingbrook’s Humphrey Middle School) that told the principal about it. They searched her locker and found she had written goodbye letters. They called 9-1-1 and then they called me.”
Emily was taken to the facility in Kankakee where she now is making steady progress in what Jolynn described as a “chrysalis” program—one where she attempts to fully grasp concepts such as courage, honesty, integrity and loving one's self in stages, much like a Monarch butterfly finally takes flight after emerging from its chrysalis stage.
Emily celebrated her 12th birthday in the Kankakee rehab facility. She received cards for her birthday and for Halloween. And, now, Letters for Emily are pouring in, too.
“It will be two weeks this Friday that she’s been in,” Jolynn Bartlett said. “She’s doing really good, doing great actually, which scares me to a certain extent. She was doing great at the other facility the last time, too. I’m afraid I won’t be able to determine if it’s just because she wants to get out of there or she is grasping the work.”
Jolynn said the Letters to Emily campaign organized by Emily’s big sister Danielle Armknecht has been nothing short of miraculous bit of alternative medicine.
“It’s amazing,” Jolynn Bartlett said. “I almost feel like I have to keep reminding her, though, that this is a one-time thing. You’re in the hospital. We’re not celebrating this. But to have so many nice people reach out and send letters and thoughts, it’s been incredible. They tell her, ‘You’re too young.’ And, ‘Now is the time if you’re going to get through this.’
“I think that’s why her sister reached out. We were in over our heads, and I’m a nurse. I thought I could see things. But when you’re a parent, it’s harder.”
Jolynn Bartlett said Emily likely will be discharged from the facility in Kankakee in about one week—as long as she keeps moving forward. Then, she will be admitted to another hospital and will be treated under close supervision while also resuming her schoolwork for a period of about two more weeks.
And, then, even after Emily returns to her normal life, she will be required to meet with officials from Illinois’ SASS agency—counselors and psychiatrists and psychologists—for the foreseeable future, Jolynn said.
“They will come to our house,” Jolynn Bartlett said.
And mom? She is taking one breath, one day at a time.
“I’m doing OK,” Jolynn Bartlett said. “She’s my little girl. I’d do anything for her. That’s what is so nice about the letters, the cards. People have sent gifts. A couple have sent money. They just keep coming. People have poured out their hearts to let her know she’s not alone. It’s made all the difference in the world.
“She brightened up as soon as the letters started coming. She looks forward to me bringing them.”
Letters to Emily Should Be Addressed to: Emily B., 632 Rockhurst Road, Bolingbrook, IL 60440.