By Maureen Kebo

Haven is a non-profit agency which fosters mental health of youth and their families in our community through prevention, intervention, and therapy programs. Carol Gerner and I serve as co-liaison for the Outreach Committee to Haven Youth and Family Services.

Although our community appears well resourced and high functioning in many ways, there is a significant need for youth and family mental health services. One pediatrician wrote in a letter of support for Haven—”I have been a solo practitioner on the Northshore for 18 years. I have never seen as much anxiety, depression, self-harm, and school avoidance as I do today.”

Haven has been collaborating with our schools for over 20 years. Haven is regularly called by the New Trier Social Work Department as well as the middle schools to provide safety assessments since Haven reports an increase in self-harm among 11 to 17-year-olds in our community. Typically Haven sees the student within 24 hours of receiving the call and provides this valuable service to identify the students’ issues and provide appropriate intervention at Haven or elsewhere if needed. Additionally, Haven regularly provides workshops on depression, anxiety, bullying, healthy relationships, decision making, peer pressure, and stress management. Workshops take place in advisory and/or health class depending on the school. Licensed clinicians run these workshops and also spend time in the cafeteria to be a resource for our students.

As the only agency welcomed into our schools, Haven can often identify problems in students and provide intervention prior to the onset of extreme difficulties. There is a rapport and trust built with the students which results in students asking for help and/or requesting help for a friend. As an example, a high school girl recently asked Haven to check in with her boyfriend because he had been drawing pictures of graphic violent deaths. Haven made a connection and brought the young man in for some support and intervention. In light of the recent emphasis on school safety, this is a powerful example. Haven also provides ongoing support for all of our students around safety issues, including their feelings and anxieties around the all school walk out scheduled for March 14.

In addition, Haven partners with churches, private schools, and other organizations. In 2017 Haven worked with the church’s IMPACT leader, Silvi Pirn, to develop substance use programs for grades 9–12. Each grade received a program tailored to their specific developmental stage.

Many of us presume that our neighbors and friends have the resources to obtain mental health services. In fact, approximately 90 percent of the students and families receiving services at Haven have a reduced rate based on their ability to pay as determined by a financial assessment. Haven will not turn anyone away based on inability to pay.

Haven is the only agency in our community to provide crisis intervention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Emergency calls are received from youth, parents, schools, and police. Recently, an adolescent boy was in an altercation and ended up at the hospital. The mother refused to pick him up. Haven was called. Due to strict laws regarding the release of minors, Haven was unable to pick the boy up to facilitate emergency housing. Haven coordinated with the Glenview police department to legally pick up the young man from the hospital. Haven was then intervened.  Although they were prepared to send the boy to emergency housing, Haven’s efforts resulted in re-engagement with the mother and the boy ultimately went home.

Speaking from personal experience and to continue breaking down the stigma, I close on a personal note. I was a depressed adolescent. Everything appeared ok from the outside of my middle class suburban home, however, my childhood and adolescence were impacted by addiction, mental illness, and sometimes violence in the home. I can’t help but imagine what it would have been like if one of the amazing clinicians at Haven were there to help me. I am quite certain that I would have received relief from my depression and the many effects of my environment.

Please join us for the Annual Outreach Benefit on Friday, April 27, and if you are unable to attend, please consider supporting the amazing efforts of our Outreach Committee.

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