“Brighter Days Are Coming” to the Groton Country Club on April 9, when the Groton-based Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions group holds its spring fund-raiser. The group plans live swing music with the Indian Hill Big Band, a silent auction made possible by the generosity of area merchants, and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $25.00 each and can be purchased at Groton’s Blackbird Café in the Mill Run Plaza, and Moison ACE Hardware and Main Street Café, both in Groton Center.
Brighter Days is part of the Groton community’s response to a local tragedy. Jeffrey Boczenowski, of Groton, ended a long struggle with depression by taking his own life on December 1, 2009. Just 21, he left behind his family, friends, and community, all grieving, in shock, and wondering what to do. A response seemed necessary to so great a loss. But what kind of response should it be?
Jeffrey’s parents, Steve and Deb Boczenowski found a deep well of support in Groton.
Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions (TADS) is the community response to Jeffery’s suicide. Boczenowski says: “Following Jeff’s death, Deb & I were moved to try and prevent similar tragedies from befalling other parents. Along with a group of loving and supporting friends, we began a conversation that ultimately led to a successful forum for parents.”
Tragically, Jeffrey’s story is not rare. Suicide is the third most frequent cause of death among young people. More than one out of every ten teens has seriously considered killing himself or herself during the past year. Yet suicide is not just an event, but the final result of undiagnosed or unchecked depression, which is a treatable mental illness. Since 2009, two more young people in our midst have died by suicide: a student at the Groton School, and a student at Ayer-Shirley High School.
Today TADS is dedicated to two goals. The first is to de-stigmatize mental illness in the community so that it receives the attention and open discussion it deserves. The second goal is to be an agent for connecting mental health services with the families in our community who need them. Steve Boczenowski goes on to say, “Our goal is to lift the burden of mental illness from as many people as we possibly can.”
The first project TADS implemented was an evening program just six months after Jeffery died. Intended to channel the community’s fresh grief into something positive, the program combined videos of Jeffery, live music performed by his friends, and addresses by Steve and Deb Boczenowski. Also included were presentations by professionals about adolescent mental health issues. The program was so well received that filming is now underway at Nashoba Valley Technical High School to make a video version of it that TADS can “take on the road”.
Later in the year, TADS sponsored an established workshop to come to Groton. Called “Signs of Suicide”, or SOS, the all-day training event was attended by educators and mental health professionals from all of the area communities.
What’s next for TADS? The group is now working to connect Groton and its neighboring communities with a service called “Project INTERFACE”, a resource that is made available to every citizen of a participating community. Project INTERFACE provides a telephone number people can call to talk to a mental health professional to discuss the specifics of their mental health concern. Project INTERFACE staff then work with area providers to identify a practitioner that meets the caller’s needs in all respects. Follow up is provided to make sure the caller’s needs are in fact met.
Groton resident, clinical psychologist, and TADS member Dr. Steve Liljegren had this to say about TADS: “I have long been concerned with the ‘gap’ between people who are suffering with depression and anxiety, and the help which is out there. There is help for depression and anxiety. Suicides can be prevented. TADS is an organization dedicated to closing, or at least lessening, that ‘gap’. TADS is working to create or strengthen the links in the chain that get those who are suffering the help they need.”
Programs like Project INTERFACE cost money. To fund its work, TADS is busy writing grant proposals, making solicitations to the community and area businesses, and promoting its April 9 fund-raiser.
TADS is one community’s response to the suicide of one young man. The goal is to make something good out of the pain such a tragedy leaves in its wake. The motivation is the hope that by providing effective resources and training, young lives will be saved, and other families and communities will not have to suffer a tragedy of their own.