Year End Appeal

It is hard to know how best to start a letter or email these days. We have heard it all again and again: “hope you are well,” “during this unprecedented time,” “facing our new reality,” “working through this crisis…” None of these phrases truly captures the world we all live in currently, because the reality is none of us know enough about what is around the corner.

As a pillar in the community and a vital safety net for every family in our community, Youth Services feels the pressure to answer these questions. Today, the best I can offer is the reality of what we experience every day. Our daily picture is of a 20%+ increase in intake calls, higher level of clients showing more critical mental health issues, children who are not getting out of bed or leaving the house, anxiety about what feels “abnormal” today and anxiety about returning to “normal” soon. There is no clear answer, except the road ahead of us will be more demanding for our youth.

We hear stories from parents and families every day about children slipping deeper into mental health issues or suicidal ideation – just as we hear stories from families whose happy, healthy children have shrunken into themselves, battling anxiety and depression, as well as feelings of hopelessness. Nothing gives us pause like this reality.

Grace, a local high school sophomore, shared a written piece with us that included these poignant lines:

This time last year, I was surrounded by all my friends.
Today, I sit isolated in my room.
This time last year, I had a reason to get up every morning.
Today, I have none.
This time last year I did not sit in my room as a child stressing about politics, stressing about my future, wondering if I have one.

Grace’s mental health, hope, and happiness has never been a concern for her parents – until she shared this piece of writing with them. In Grace, we see every child. We see the demand and need waiting around the corner – and ever present right now. Our programs are still virtually vibrant. Our phone continues to ring every day with new clients desperate for services. Our clinicians are working tirelessly to meet the demand today – and next week, next month, and next year.

According to the CDC, “Beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health-related ED visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental-health related visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 years increased approximately 24% and 31% respectively.”

Bottom line: “Monitoring indicators of children’s mental health, promoting coping, and resilience, and expanding access to services to support children’s mental health are critical.”

And we are still committed to each family – regardless of their ability to pay. We need your commitment, as well. Now is the time to expand and sustain our ability to be there for every child and family that needs us. Please know whatever you can do will make a difference and is an investment in our community’s future and our most precious resource.

Wishing you hope, health, and peace,
Amy O’Leary, LCSW
Executive Director, Youth Services

Your support will ensure each child who comes through our doors has
the opportunity to grow up happy, healthy, and with hope.