At 14 years old, Melissa Robert’s mother told authorities that her daughter was incorrigible and needed to be locked up.
“I was acting up, smoking weed, taking pills, and skipping school almost every day,” Melissa says.
And so, just before Christmas 2006, Melissa was put in the juvenile detention facility in Detroit. Her short stay there did not have the intended effect of impelling her to change her bad behavior. Indeed, the behavior only worsened upon her release.
“I threw away my teenage years,” Melissa says. “Looking back, I regret how much I lost. I never participated in school activities. I never went to school dances or prom. I actually like frilly dresses, and wish I had the chance to wear one.”
Melissa started mental health counseling with Southwest Counseling Solutions when she was 14. She worked with Margaret Jabboori and Dr. Janice Bow.
“I was forced to go to counseling and hated it at times, but I now realize how Southwest Solutions has changed my life for the better,” Melissa says. “My heart goes out to Margaret and Dr. Bow.”
Melissa says that the counseling she received did not have an immediate impact on her, but then made a difference when she began to understand that she wanted a better future. The lessons she was taught, but ignored at the time, came back to her and started to shape her actions and decisions.
“I had faith in Melissa even though she was so hard-headed,” Margaret says. “She had a determination and feistiness that she needed to re-direct in order to succeed. Eventually, she realized that she wanted to rise above the way she was living.”
Margaret used to visit Melissa and her mother Debbie in their home for intensive counseling sessions. Melissa and Debbie argued frequently, and the arguments were often verbally violent and sometimes became physical.
“I was very disrespectful to my mom and others,” Melissa says. “I had serious anger issues and knew what buttons to push to hurt the people in my life. I would apologize afterward, but everyone knew my sorries weren’t real.”
Melissa even became angry with Margaret and told her she was “fired” after two years of almost daily interaction to deal with persistent issues.
“Only after I had lost her did I realize how much Margaret meant to me,” Melissa says. “What she had said stayed with me, though, in the back of my mind.”
Melissa spent all of 2009 in juvenile detention for violating her probation.
“Sometime in lockup, it sank in that I was wrong and I needed to change and listen,” Melissa says. “I’ve had a genuine change of heart, and my actions show that.”
Melissa moved to northern Michigan last summer to live with her mother again. Their relationship has improved dramatically. Melissa completed her GED recently and will be attending North Central Michigan College in Petoskey. She is very focused on her studies wants to become a registered nurse.
Melissa’s interest in nursing derives from her mother’s serious health problems. Debbie suffered from cervical cancer. The cancer had gone into remission after treatment, but has now returned. Debbie also is plagued with migraines. Growing up, Melissa spent countless nights with her mother in the hospital as doctors and nurses tried to ease her mother’s debilitating pain.
“Unfortunately, I may have been the source of many of those migraines that my mother had to deal with,” Melissa says. “But now it’s important to me to help her get better, however I can.”
Whereas once she seemed intent to hurt herself and others, Melissa is resolved to heal.