A SafeSpace Parent’s Perspective on Recent Events in Our Community

Liesl+Moldow,+Director+of+Development.jpeg

The news of the loss of a fellow high school sophomore spread through my son’s Instagram network like wildfire yesterday.  He and all of his classmates knew immediately.  I was astounded that they heard before we did.  It revealed in an ominous way how pervasive the reality of suicide is for our kids, how attuned and tragically resigned they are to its occurrence.

As one of the members of the SafeSpace team, and the mother of three teens, I am keenly aware of the pressures and sense of disconnect our kids experience on a daily basis.  My partners and I are dedicated to combating the stigma and isolation brought on by anxiety and depression and just plain old teen angst.

But this latest loss reveals the true extent of the foe we face.  It is an insidious and cunning disease.  Fed by a thousand forms of fear, the feeling of anxiety or depression convinces our kids they are better off staying quiet and isolated.   This malady sucks the joy of life out of our children’s souls, it renders them into victims of learned helplessness.  Worse still, many of us adults have no idea this is happening until it is too late.

We know intellectually that mental illness can be managed with proper support and therapeutic tools.  We know that asking for help quiets the destructive voice within.  Connection and compassion are intrinsic to recovery.  We just need to practice this, rather than talk about it.

While we can’t always be there to save our children, we can fight for their right to help themselves.  A supportive and open-minded community creates a positive environment for recovery.  We do not need to know everything about mental illness, but we do need to know how to listen and support our kids with compassion and authentic curiosity about how their day was, not just about what they accomplished.

This is an ongoing opportunity for us to challenge the status quo.  Working together as a community to support our kids is the primary mission we’ve set for ourselves at SafeSpace.  We’ve created our first Youth Advisory Board to channel the youth voice into actionable goals.  They have hit the ground running- we struggle to keep up!  They are helping to break the silence- they are teaching us more than we are teaching them.

We are deeply saddened for the friends and family touched by this latest tragedy.  It is an unimaginable grief.  We hope our center will provide a space for kids to help themselves and others deal with the many pressures they face. We are not alone in pursuing this goal and we applaud all efforts.  Our kids do not have to suffer in silence any more.  We continue to have faith that we can change the world, one child at a time.  We are truly all in this together.

Updates from SafeSpace

Chris Tanti...A bit about me.

Chris Tanti, CEO

My name is Chris Tanti and I am so excited to be apart of launching SafeSpace. SafeSpace is attempting to bridge the gap between the needs of young people aged 12 – 26 and the available services by offering individual, group and family therapy.  

By way of background, I am from Melbourne, Australia where I have spent the bulk of my professional life working in the area of mental health, first as a clinician and then in senior executive roles across the for profit as well as the non-profit and government sectors.

I spent the last 10 years working with a fantastic group of people to build a world-class, national youth mental health service called Headspace in Australia. As the inaugural CEO, I saw the organization grow from zero to 100 centers nationally, provide online counseling services and create a school suicide intervention program, servicing in excess of 90,000 young adults per annum. We successfully reached many youth at risk of harm by working with young adults themselves to build a service that met their unique needs and requirements. Importantly in the process, we were able to strengthen and build capacity in communities. I am excited and hopeful that SafeSpace will be able to do the same and more here in the US.

 

Our Team Is Growing

Many of you already know Susan Bird, Stacy Drazan and Liesl Moldow. None of this would be possible without their ongoing efforts. We continue to build our Board, define roles, and define governance. Recently the Board has been joined by Dina Jackson. She brings with her a passion for helping families find the support they need during times of mental health challenges. She will be leveraging her considerable experience in digital marketing and technology to build the necessary infrastructure to take us forward.

We also welcome Lindsay McHugh, who recently joined our team, providing the necessary front of the house and administrative support. She will be the first contact for patients and families entering the Menlo Park center.

 

Our Youth Advisory Board Has Been Formed

Youth Advisory Board

After interviewing dozens of applicants, we selected our Youth Advisory Board members. The function of the Youth Advisory Board is to collaborate with us in building our organization and centers in a way that ensures young adults find them relevant and meaningful. It is my experience that these fantastic and generous young adults will help us create an environment and a culture that young adults feel comfortable walking into for support and most importantly, so they feel better when they leave. A huge debt of gratitude goes to Dr. Leslie Martin who has helped us develop a state of the art participation strategy and who spends countless hours preparing for our meetings to ensure that we get the most out of our advisory board and that they get the most out of us. Each member of the Advisory Board acts as a liaison within his/her local school enabling SafeSpace to develop close and deep relationships with teachers, students and the broader school community. My experience tells me that being well networked in schools removes one of the fundamental barriers to seeking help. People need to know you exist in order to get the help they need.

 

Open for Business in Menlo Park

The SafeSpace Menlo Park Center at 1162 and 1166 El Camino Real, Menlo Park commenced seeing young adults and their families in late March, nearly four months ahead of schedule. At our SafeSpace Menlo Park center, our affiliate partner, BACA, is providing both Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Services. Within two minutes of turning on our phone lines, we had our first patient. We continue to receive referrals directly from families and others in the community. We have two BACA Psychiatrists, Dr. Dan Yang and Dr. Hari Nair currently working in the center and as demand increases, we have additional staff, who will be engaged to ensure we get people the support they need as soon as they need it.

 

Important Acknowledgements

Whilst the idea started with only a few people in this community, it has now engaged members of the community from all walks of life, all of them dedicated to making a difference in the lives of young people. I would particularly like to acknowledge Liesl Moldow. Liesl is spearheading our business and corporate development, furniture building (though I did have to tighten some of the screws she left hanging) and has assisted us with our school communities. Liesl even negotiated a generous donation that facilitated furnishing the whole of 1162, in addition to negotiating with Foundation Capital, who subsequently provided us with the necessary office space to incubate and execute our vision.

I would also like to acknowledge Brad Robertson, who helped SafeSpace through the delicate task of filing our first tax statement.

This is a true grass roots community collaboration and many people have helped us get to this point Susan Bird in particular, who recently accepted the challenge of chairing the SafeSpace Board and for who SafeSpace has become a full-time job.

 

Closing Thoughts

We will be having launch celebration for the SafeSpace Menlo Park center in September and I will be in touch once we firm up a date. We continue to raise funds from both corporate and individual donors. Thank you for your continued support financially and in helping us create awareness.  Feel free to call me at the Menlo Park Center 650.304.3906 if you want to visit or have friends in need of help.

Best,
Chris