Debbie DeMarco Bennett grew up in a difficult home situation and moved to foster care as a teen. She went through her own Hell, and chose to go back, to help those who live there. For Debbie, recovery started with a diagnosis.
Within the next 24 hours, more than 3,000 teenagers in the United States will attempt to take their own lives. Seventeen of them will succeed. Jackie Simmons’ daughter, Stephanie, shared that statistic when delivering a speech which would change lives and inspire teens to come together with Stephanie’s sisters and to create, “The Teen Suicide Prevention Society.”
On December 22, 2020, 24 year old Yocheved Gourarie took her own life. Yocheved was a kind and thoughtful person. Loved by all. She was a top student, always maintaining perfect grades in school and at the time of her passing, was in the process of applying to PHD nursing programs. Posthumously, the family learned that she was accepted at Columbia University in their DNP program on track to becoming a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Unfortunately, her battle with mental illness raged, and she succumbed to it, not having fulfilled her dreams.
Bracha Goetz walks us through her journey to finding purpose in her life. Her search began at age 12 when she started wondering what the point of anything was and feeling very empty inside. She thought there must be more to life than what those around her do and expected her to do. She began her struggle with food, experimented with drugs and sought out religions and philosophical schools of thought.
Sari Dana tells us her story of how she chose to move away from dieting after a long struggle with binge eating. She chose to give her body unconditional acceptance and love, no matter what happened to her size, which put her in a much healthier place both mentally and physically than she had been before. Her passion to empower everyone involved in working with teens, including the kids themselves, is to retrain their minds to see themselves as a whole person, not just their bodies or any other part, and to love every part unconditionally. Once they have started that work in themselves, they can start to guide others as well.
Growing up, Nichole and her family knew she was different; something just seemed “off.” But she wouldn’t get diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until she was 20 years old. As a young child, she assumed everyone was having a similar inner experience to hers, so she didn’t even think to ask for help. Her parents didn’t understand how much was going on in her brain. During a manic episode, Nichole left home and moved in with a boy several hours away. When the mania subsided, she found herself in the deepest depression of her life. She took herself to the hospital many times, and was turned away every time before finally getting admitted for attempting suicide and being taken home by her parents.
Laura Messner grew up in a typical home until her parents divorced when she was eight years old. After she became aware of how little she got to see her father, she began chasing after perfection in every way she could think of to “earn” his attention… until she developed an eating disorder and eventually attempted suicide. She came to learn self-love and to take responsibility for her own pain and healing journey. As a teenager, she resisted help because she was unwilling to admit that everything inside was not perfect. It wasn’t until her late twenties that she came to understand that her struggles stemmed from the pain she felt from seeing herself as a victim of her father’s abandonment.
Tammy Ozolins is an extraordinary teacher. She returns to tell us of how teachers face an uphill battle in the field, boots on the ground, in the daunting challenge of helping teens who suffer with mental illness. She chooses to highlight the importance of being a friend to a student rather than a disciplinarian. In one instance, this technique resulted in a 6th grade student confiding to her years later, that her support drove him to not only graduate, but to join the marine corps with pride in who he was and what he became.
Paul Cummings had a stroke three years ago and lost his speech, the ability to understand others, the ability to read and write and difficulty moving his muscles. Doctors told him he would never be able to write or speak again.
After having seven episodes of psychosis and Bipolar I over the course of five years, Zahava List finally got through five years without a single episode. During those five years, she started an organization called Chazkeinu, which offers a support group to Jewish women and their families who are dealing with mental illness.