Hudson Brock's story is not his alone. It’s his mom’s story. It’s his dad’s story. It’s his sister’s, too.
When children experience mental health challenges, it affects the family. That’s why the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health will be a resource not just for kids, but also for their parents and siblings.
You may recognize Hudson from the #BuildThemUp campaign to fund the centre – his face is on billboards and bus boards all over the city.
Hudson and his mom, Naomi, spoke openly about their family’s journey at the Calgary debut of CRESCENDO – something that would have terrified him before – to highlight the need for a facility like the Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, which will make it easier for future generations to get the support they need. “I believe it’s important to share my story, to help other kids – and other families – who are struggling with mental health challenges,” he says.
Hudson was diagnosed with absence epilepsy at a young age. He would experience hundreds of absence seizures in a day, although many of them were almost imperceptible. It terrified his mother.
“It was awful thinking that all of this had been going on inside our son’s head and we hadn’t known or understood the full extent of what he was experiencing,” Naomi says. “Fortunately, we were under the thorough and compassionate care of a wonderful pediatric neurologist, who helped get these seizures under control.”
Not long after, Hudson began to develop tics, “little twitches or urges that were downright uncomfortable,” he says. "It would take every bit of my strength to resist them, just so I wouldn’t look funny to other kids.”
Hudson was eventually diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. At the same time, he developed obsessive compulsive disorder, debilitating anxiety and multiple phobias.
“Our sweet, smart and beautiful little boy was being tormented by dark, disturbing thoughts and fears,” Naomi recalls. “He was so desperate to escape what was happening in his mind that he would pound his fists into his head to try and stop it. It was heartbreaking to watch him suffer – to watch our own son physically harm himself to try and escape the torture and yet, my husband Ryan and I felt utterly helpless. Hudson began to shut down – we all did.”
Hudson stopped going outside to play. He was scared to be away from his mom and dad, his appetite disappeared, and he began to lose weight.
“I was scared to shower with the curtain closed because I was convinced there were bugs behind there and it was terrifying. I couldn’t even sleep because I believed there were tarantulas in my bed that would get me the second I shut my eyes.”
To Hudson, the creatures were very real. For his mom and dad, it was a different kind of nightmare.
“I remember nights we would stay awake, staring at Hudson and wondering what to do. As exhausted as we were, we couldn’t rest, knowing our boy was being tortured by what was going on in his own head. The stress, the lack of sleep – it wears on you.”
Hudson was admitted to the mental health unit at Alberta Children’s Hospital. Leaving him there, says Naomi, was one of the hardest things she and Ryan ever had to do.
Looking back now, it was their best decision.
“Both Hudson and our family have received so much support at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and we were fortunate to meet the right people to help our son overcome many of his challenges and learn to cope with the rest." — Naomi Brock
During his stay, Hudson was able to participate in a research study using non-invasive brain stimulation as a possible treatment for kids with Tourettes. “It really helped with my tics and I felt proud knowing that I was going to be helping other kids like me,” he says.
Naomi says the experience opened her eyes to the world of research, an unsung hero in the development of new treatments and therapies. The Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health will be a hub for pediatric research to inform better treatments for children with a range of mental health challenges.
Hudson is doing well now. He’s an actor, and he’s performed on stage in front of thousands of people. He recently spoke at CRESCENDO in front of nearly 1000 people. “It’s pretty cool to think how far I’ve come,” he says.
The Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health will provide a suite of services for kids and families experiencing challenges. It will provide the kind of care children need, when they need it, and that’s why the Brocks are so excited for the new Centre.
“It is our hope that for everyone facing a mental health challenge, they receive the help they need when they need it and that they, too, will have very bright futures," says Naomi.
The Centre is relying on support from the community to fund construction and support vital programming. Stay tuned to this blog for more ways to help #BuildThemUp.