At a ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse, Steve and Deb Boczenowski, founders of Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions, were awarded the 2013 Leadership in Suicide Prevention Award by the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention.
The Boczenowskis founded TADS in 2011 as a response to the suicide death of their son, Jeffrey, in 2009. The award was co-presented by Sen Jamie Eldridge, of Acton, and Rep Sheila Harrington, of Groton.
The mission of TADS is to help parents and teachers handle the mental-health needs of children by raising awareness, providing education and enabling access to care. TADS' website is www.tadsma.org.
Here is the text of Steve and Deb's comments upon receiving the award:
"We're honored to receive this award. We're especially grateful to be introduced by a terrific public servant like Jamie Eldridge.
"We're also honored to be joined by our representative, Sheila Harrington. Sheila has been quite supportive of TADS -- she has attended several of our events, and she invited us into her office to discuss these issues and pledged her future support to our efforts.
"In the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2009, the two of us lay awake in bed. We had awoken a few hours earlier to find that Jeffrey was not at home. We had made all the telephone calls we could think to make. Now, there was nothing for us to do except wait to hear back from someone -- anyone -- who might be able to help us find our son. I don't recall the specific words we spoke, but in the darkness, we realized that the news may be very bad, and we acknowledged that many parents who experience tragedies with their children also lose their marriage, and so we pledged to each other that we would stay together and support each other, no matter what would come our way.
"And so we have.
"Within a few weeks after Jeffrey died, we knew we wanted to do something to help other parents avoid our fate. And so we slowly got involved, and we started to discover all of the organizations who do work in this space and pretty quickly we found Barbara Whitcomb and MCSP. We wanted to educate ourselves about what was already being done -- we didn't want to re-invent the wheel -- and we began to encounter some really wonderful people, people that have been blessings in our lives. And rather than build our own organization from the ground up, we decided it was better to leverage the work of others. And so we climbed onto the shoulders of people like Barbara Whitcomb, Debbie Helms, Alan Holmlund, Candice Porter and Margaret Hannah. And then we formed TADS.
"Teenage Anxiety Depressions Solutions, or TADS, is our family business. We each have our roles, and it's a constant topic of conversation between us. But we couldn't do it without our very supportive board of directors. Eight loving and dedicated friends who have agreed to join us on this journey.
"We have defined the mission of TADS this way: to address mental-health issues by raising awareness, providing education, and enabling access to care. To raise awareness, we've spoken at parent forums and we recently completed work on a video that we can bring to your community. To provide education, we have contracted with Screening for Mental Health for them to come to our town of Groton each year to train a roomful of educators on the well-known SOS Signs of Suicide curriculum. Right now, we're in the middle of planning for our next training on March 1, which is Jeffrey's birthday. We are expecting 100 people from all over the commonwealth. To enable access to care, we have contracted with the Mass School of Professional Psychology to bring the MSPP INTERFACE Referral Service to towns in our area -- Groton and Dunstable, Ayer and Shirley.
"Doing this work, we encounter a lot of different people, which allows us to do a few other things. We address the problem of stigma of mental-health issues in our society. We get the opportunity to advocate for causes we believe in with state and local government. And we get to meet other parents who are struggling the way we have struggled. It's in those quiet moments -- sharing stories, holding hands, just being there for each other -- that we do some of our most important work.
"Lately our big dream is to make mental-health care much more accessible to everyone in the commonwealth. We believe that MSPP Interface is an incredibly valuable resource, but currently it only serves 25 municipalities. I'm in frequent contact with Margaret Hannah and we stand ready to support her efforts to make this valuable resource, or something like it, available to everyone in Massachusetts.
"We'd like to thank the executive board of MCSP for honoring us today and we pledge to continue our efforts to help parents and educators address mental-health issues with our youth."
For information call Steve or Deb Boczenowski at 978-448-5013.