A Closer Look at Hillside
It had been almost 10 years since I visited Hillside and so when Trouble Clothes was invited to take a tour of the campus on August 21, I jumped at the opportunity. The tour was led by two of the residents, along with CEO, Emily Acker and Development Director, Evan Pearson.
In case Hillside is unfamiliar to you, here's a brief overview: Hillside offers the highest level of care for mental health issues for children ages 5-18 experiencing debilitating and often life threatening health issues that prevent them from staying at home. The primary diagnosis on intake is depression and they accept kids from all income levels. The kids at Hillside are in the acute illness stage and have been through other treatments programs that were not successful.
We have seen an increase in the acceptance and understanding of mental health issues over the past decade and with the exposure and rise of bullying and the negative effects that social media can have on kids today - proper mental health care has become a very serious need.
The current campus has been around for almost 100 years, so the buildings take on a classic architectural style and the grounds are carefully maintained. At Hillside, the professionals take a multi-faceted approach to complete health care and they take "multi-faceted" to a new level. The campus has several gardens for horticultural therapy, which grow herbs and spices used in the kitchen on-site. A beautiful dining hall with lighting that reminds me of Hogwarts, is a recent addition to the campus. The builders maintained the integrity of the overall campus style, while giving it a modern twist. Hillside provides healthy meals to their residents, who are responsible for cleaning up the space afterwards. Another recent addition is the yurt; a place for Individual and Family Therapy, Recreation Therapy, Life Force Yoga, and West African Drumming, special events, including performances.
The campus also has a school serving 1st through 12th grades. The school is a part of the Atlanta Public School system and therefore complies with all of their requirements. This enables students to resume their classes at home without losing a grade level or learning time during their stay at Hillside. The classes integrate dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) techniques that give students the tools they need to manage conflict, anxiety, increase mindfulness, among other things.
DBT is a big part of the residents' therapy program. The great thing about DBT is that it isn't just for the kids, it can be learned by their families, so that families also have the tools to help themselves.
The tour also had a graduate of the program back for a visit. This former-Hillside resident is now about to head off to college and holds a job in food industry.
What makes Hillside unique:
Welcoming energy that doesn't feel like a hospital - where kids can focus on getting better and not just getting out
Variety of treatments programs (resident, out-patient, day)
Multi-level therapy with a DBT focus
Foster care system to help kids transition into a caring home
Location - the highest point in midtown Atlanta
90% of funding goes to programming and therapy, where only 10% goes to operations. Hillside has 250 full-time and part-time employees; the hospital is staffed 24 hours a days, 7 days a week.
To learn more or donate directly visit: https://hside.org
As always, you can support our partners by making a donation on the Trouble Clothes website.