GROTON -- Steve Boczenowski wants people to know they should never feel afraid to ask their loved ones when there are reasons to suspect they are thinking about killing themselves.
Many assume that mentioning the word "suicide" would be to suggest the idea to the person, Boczenowski said. But researches show that's not true, he said. Instead, bringing up the subject helps the individual to open up and talk about it.
"It's a relief to that person," Boczenowski said.
Boczenowski also tells others to keep a watchful eye on the person when symptoms of depression suddenly disappear. One might act on the suicide plan now that he or she has the energy to do it.
It's one piece of information Boczenowski wishes he had known before his son, Jeffrey, killed himself in 2009.
But such tips that Boczenowski and his wife, Deb, have been sharing with others through Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions that they founded are salvation to others.
"Several times, people have told us the event we held or something we did saved a child's life," Boczenowski said.
People often tell the Boczenowskis and some other families loved and nourished their children the right way but lost them to suicide anyway.
"Our answer to that is we believe suicide can be prevented," Boczenowski said, renewing his vow to help those suffering from depression.
After more than three years of tireless advocacy effort to help families struggling with depression
TADS, which the Boczenowskis created, is an advocacy organization that works to raise awareness about issues surrounding depression and suicide.
Working in partnership with school districts and school counselors, TADS focuses on teenage suicide prevention as suicide has become a leading cause of death among teens.
The organization holds public forums and workshops to teach the signs one would show when depressed or experiencing a mental-health crisis and the best way to deal with the situation. It provides families tips on how to find medical care and other assistance they need. TADS has also raised fund to bring in Project INTERFACE, a phone service run by the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, to Groton, Dunstable, Ayer and Shirley.
Project INTERFACE provides professional-counseling referrals that match callers' needs for location, expertise, insurance and fee requirements.
The efforts of TADS has yielded some tangible results, according to Boczenowski. During the first six months after TADS was launched, between Jan. 1 and June 30 of last year, there were 34 mental-health referrals provided to the students within the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. Between July 1 last year and Jan. 31 of this year, the number has increased to 53.
It's good news to the Boczenowskis, who hope no other families will ever have to experience the anguish they felt on the morning of Dec. 1, 2009, when they woke up to a phone call informing their 21-year-old son, who was a philosophy major and UMass Lowell senior, was missing. A passerby would find him unconscious on the side of a Groton road sometime later. He died at the hospital of drug overdose.
Boczenowski said his son had just switched medication, and it did wonder for him.
"He was a young man that we had hoped to see him again," Boczenowski said of his son, who had suffered from depression for years.
A few weeks after their son died, the Boczenowskis pledged to themselves to do their best to help other families avoid a similar fate.
"We really don't do it for that kind of thing. I feel a little embarrassed," a humble Steve Boczenowski, a high-tech professional, said of the award.
Nonetheless, he said he appreciates the award because it's testament to the efforts of the 10 board members of TADS who have supported the Boczenowskis and their cause from the get-go.
"They have chosen to walk the journey with us. It means a lot to us," Boczenowski said.
Boczenowski believes early diagnosis and treatment are key to prevent progression of depression and suicide. And he and his wife, as well as TADS board members, are hoping to help make mental-health care much more accessible to all in Massachusetts, Boczenowski said.
For more information about TADS, visit www.tadsma.org.