There may be no scarier words for a parent to hear from their child than “Some days I just don’t think I can go on any longer,” or a similar sentiment. The reality is that children and teens are under more stress than ever, with suicidal thinking and actions on the rise over the past decade. Moreover, the isolation and fear surrounding the pandemic has created a dramatic increase in severe depression and anxiety.
But even before COVID-19 upended our lives, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center was responding to the crisis in suicidal thinking and actions among young people with two initiatives focused on saving lives: the Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project and the Fay J. Lindner Foundation Triage and Emergency Services.
Answering the Call
In 2021, the Guidance Center experienced a substantial increase in referrals from schools, pediatricians, hospitals and others. Those entities know that we promise to see urgent cases within 24 to 48 hours—an unheard-of response time, when most families are faced with waits of weeks or even months to get help for their children.
In fact, recent stories in the New York Times and other sources report that suicidal children and teens often wait in emergency exam rooms for days or even weeks to access urgently needed treatment. Both inpatient and outpatient mental health services, even when a situation is clearly an emergency, are in extremely short supply.
By contrast, when an urgent call comes into the Guidance Center, our most senior triage clinicians and their team members assess each individual case, working collaboratively with the family and child to create a treatment plan that provides the care these vulnerable children and teens need to begin on the road to healing.
We address all high-risk cases with a thorough evaluation for suicide risk; multiple sessions of individual, group and family therapy each week for as long as is needed; and an individualized treatment plan that focuses on safety strategies and healthy coping skills.
A key element in the creation of a safety plan is a list of prioritized coping strategies and sources of support that children and teens can use during times of crisis. We have found that this is an essential process to help engage our high-risk clients during a most vulnerable time.
We also provide educational seminars, both in person and via webinars, on suicide prevention, so that parents, students, medical professionals and school administrators learn to recognize the signs and know what resources are available to them, including our services.
Treating the Whole Child
The Guidance Center team knows the importance of treating our clients with a holistic, expansive approach, so our clinicians work closely with the family, schools and other entities to explore whether the systems in place are a good fit for the child.
Some of our young clients have suffered with extreme bullying, academic failure, lack of support in their schools and other traumatic situations. To address all of a child’s emotional needs, we advocate for more support services, whether it means securing additional accommodations in the school, offering a different setting that is more therapeutic or providing case management for the family.
Our clinicians are a lifeline to kids and parents, providing emotional support, state-of-the-art clinical services, community resources and concrete steps that enable them to move beyond despair and hopelessness so they can envision a truly bright future.
Donors Make the Difference
Without the generosity of Ellen and Donald Feldman, who funded the program in honor of their son, and the trustees at the Fay J. Lindner Foundation, our lifesaving services would not be possible. To them, and all of you who donate to support the Guidance Center, we are profoundly grateful.
To learn how to support our work, contact Lauren McGowan, Director of Development, at LMcGowan@northshorechildguidance.org, or call 516-626-1971, ext. 320.