It’s a phone call we get all too often: A parent tells us their son or daughter is experiencing severe depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. And the situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 virus.
“The isolation brought on by the pandemic is hard on everyone, but it’s especially difficult for young people,” says Regina Barros-Rivera, Associate Executive Director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. “All their normal routines have been upended, like going to school, playing sports and celebrating special occasions. Many have lost someone close to them, and they are in a constant state of fear. It’s a crisis that’s getting worse by the day.”
Sadly, suicide among young people isn’t a new problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24, with more teens and young adults dying from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, birth defects and other major illnesses combined.
Thanks to a generous gift from Donald and Ellen Feldman, in September the Guidance Center launched a new program, the Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, an expansive initiative that aims to tackle the epidemic of suicide among young people.
“Through the Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, we will bring essential, life-changing services to the children and families in our community,” says Elissa Smilowitz, who is heading up the program. “We will address high-risk cases with a thorough evaluation for suicide risk; multiple weekly sessions of individual, group and family therapy; and a culturally sensitive treatment plan that focuses on safety strategies, healthy coping skills and relapse prevention.”
Evaluation with a psychiatrist regarding the possible use of medication will also be provided, along with in-home treatment and referrals to programs and services that will support parents’ efforts to protect their children.
The Guidance Center will also provide educational forums and a suicide survivors’ support group for those who suffer this tragic loss.
Andrew Malekoff, Executive Director of the Guidance Center, says, “We are grateful to the Feldmans for enabling us to develop a suicide prevention initiative that will enhance our ability to reach young people who may see no way out from the despair they are feeling. It’s a prime example of how our dedicated supporters make a profound difference in the well-being of our community.”
He adds, “Join us in spreading the word to schools, community organizations and friends. Information is power, and this program can save lives.”
Donations to support the Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project can be made at www.northshorechildguidance.org/donate or by calling (516) 626-1971, ext. 320.