Today is my 55th birthday and, as I reflect, I am filled with gratitude. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My children were 9, 13, and 15 years old, and my middle son was in a residential treatment center after having struggled for years with major depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These past 10 years have been like nothing I could have ever imagined. Some things have been terrifying; others have been magnificent. Almost all have been unpredictable. Change is the one thing that has been constant. I have navigated my journey so far by embracing change and recognizing that the only thing I can control is my reaction.
One thing I know is that I could not have managed my reactions without the support of other people, some friends and some strangers, who understood and helped me feel less alone. I am truly grateful.
But I can’t help but think about what would have happened if the COVID-19 pandemic had happened 10 years ago, when I was facing 9 months of chemotherapy and my children were young and still emotionally fragile. How would this crisis have impacted my children, who had already experienced the trauma of mental illness in the family? What if my son was in residential treatment? He was finally getting the treatment he needed; would they have closed down and sent him home? Would I have insisted he come home? How would I have helped keep his anxiety, depression, and erratic mood swings under control while managing my other children’s fears and struggles, while juggling homework or homeschooling, and trying to stay calm myself? Would I have been able to get the cancer treatment I needed to stay alive for another 10 years?
I am one of the lucky ones. My children are adults now and I am healthy, but there are millions of parents out there struggling the way I would have, had this pandemic happened 10 years ago. For the past few weeks I have been consumed with figuring out how to give back by helping those parents. Several years ago I founded The Youth Mental Health Project to create a safe space for parents who were struggling and felt isolated – a community of parents who supported each other and shared resources. We created The Parent Support Network to be a program that would provide parents who are concerned about their children’s mental health with an opportunity to find and support each other in a confidential and safe space within their own communities. In only 15 months we launched 10 locations, trained 30 volunteer Facilitators, ran 88 meetings, and supported over 600 parent attendees.
Like so many other important services, we have had to shut down our in-person meetings due to COVID-19. Our team has worked tirelessly to move to a virtual platform so that we can continue to support parents during this crisis. Due to the demand, we have added virtual meetings open to parents throughout the country. I am proud of what we have accomplished, but I am frantically trying to expand our services to meet the demand.
Families need us now more than ever, but we can not do it alone.
WE NEED HELP TO CONTINUE OUR WORK!
I hate asking for money. But I am pushing through my own fear and I am asking for help because I believe – no, I know – that we are providing an essential service to parents and families.
Would you PLEASE DONATE NOW to The Youth Mental Health Project so that we can continue to support parents who need our help during this crisis, and beyond? No amount is too small to be significant. A donation of $5 per month would support one family for a year!
We can’t control what is happening right now, but with support and connection, we can get through this challenging time together.
With gratitude for your support,
Randi Silverman, Founder of The Youth Mental Health Project