Few can fathom the pain that comes from losing a child but Steve Boczenowski says he and his wife have made it their mission to help other parents avoid the tragedy they went through.
In 2010, Steve and his wife Deb, of Groton, lost their 21-year-old son, Jeffery, to suicide. He was a fourth year student at UMass Lowell who loved soccer and basketball.
"I want to bring meaning to my son's life, I want his life to help other people," said Boczenowski.
Teenage Anxiety and Depression Solutions (TADS) is a 501c3 nonprofit founded by the couple and some of their friends. Its mission is to raise awareness about mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
In their efforts, TADS members travel throughout the region to give talks about mental illness. They also arrange training sessions conducted by the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology to enable school employees to detect mental illness in their students and seek help.
"I know a lot of stuff now. I knew nothing when Jeffrey was going through depression," said Boczenowski.
He urges parents that are going through similar situations with their children to seek help and to talk about the issue.
"If Jeffrey had hurt his knee, I would go to the bus stop and ask for help and people would give me all sorts of suggestions," he said. "But people don't talk about depression at a bus stop or around the water cooler. They leave it behind closed doors.
TADS partnered with INTERFACE, an initiative by MSPP, to improve the integration of mental health and wellness services in schools and in communities.
Anyone seeking help for a loved one can call the hotline and talk about the situation. Within two days someone from the program will call the person back with a detailed description of a provider that fits their needs, accepts their medical insurance and is available for immediate service.
In July, TADS received a $12,000 grant from the Nashoba Valley Community Healthcare Fund to bring INTERFACE to Pepperell, Townsend and Ashby for a year. TADS has committed to pay for a second year. The service is also available in Harvard, Shirley, Ayer, Littleton, Groton-Dunstable, Chelmsford and Westford.
"My wife and I are churchgoing people and we believe we are given blessings," said Boczenowski. "Removing my son was not a blessing for me, but we recognize that sharing our story to other people can be a blessing to them."
For information on TADS, visit tadsma.org or call the MSPP Interface Referral Service at 617-332-3666, ext. 1411.
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