Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s been five agonizing years since Julie and Scott Halpert of Ann Arbor lost their beloved son Garrett to suicide. Through their grief, the Halperts worked tirelessly to make sure the other young men got the kind of help they wish Garrett could have.
“When we came up with this idea, we were hoping it would help the way we wanted,” Julie Halpert said. “But really, we’ve seen that vision unfold with these groups.” this vision Garrett spacean organization dedicated to filling gaps in the treatment of young people with mental health challenges.
“We really try to help young people who feel like no one in their life understands what’s going on with them,” Scott Halpert said. This includes weekly peer support groups that meet virtually for conversation and movement activity.
“There is a huge impact just being able to listen to you when you share what you’re going through with people who understand that, and it was great to see these participants grow up during the course of their show,” Nick Bardar said. Group facilitator with Garrett’s Space.
Conversational topics range from general anxiety and depression to everyday stressors. “We talked a lot about the lack of space where we could have these open conversations,” Bardar said. “A lot of these people live with or live with suicidal thoughts. It’s not something we really talk about in our daily conversations or feel comfortable talking about. So just making space for these young people so they can talk about it openly with people who understand was important. Really for them.”
Bardar says the pressures of social media are also in focus. “We talk a lot about how everyone is giving their best on social media. Nobody posts when they are feeling sad, anxious or isolated,” Bardar said. “I see it weighs people down, and they feel more isolated as they compare themselves to people they see online. And again, in fact, none of us live this perfect life all the time no matter where you are with your mental health.”
The peer support group program is growing, but Halpert says, so is the need. A December 2021 national survey by the Harris Polling Group of more than 1,700 people ages 18 to 24 found that 70 percent reported experiencing moderate to severe depression.
We are in a crisis now. Even coming out of Covid, post-Covid, Julie Halpert said, we constantly get calls from parents whose children are either suffering very badly or have died by suicide. “We are on the front lines of that, which is often really hard to hear from a parent who has lost someone to suicide. But it also assures us that there is not enough treatment and support and that we can provide this kind of support quickly. It is so gratifying to give us a way forward. From our grief and from our loss.”
The biggest goal of Garrett’s Space is to build an inclusive residential haven. “We want this to be a place where young people can really exhale,” Julie Halpert said. “Young people, between the ages of 18 and 28, will be able to go to this place to stay for two to three weeks and just focus on healing. We will give them all kinds of strategies related to healing, everything from yoga to music, dance and healthy cooking, because we feel that There is a very strong connection between the mind and the body.”
They hope that the retreat will become a model for others. “Hopefully, this place isn’t just here, it can be everywhere,” Julie Halpert said. A place that would appeal to their son and many like him. “Garrett in the end, I felt so lonely. He didn’t have anyone who could relate to what he was going through. That’s what we’re trying to create,” Scott Halpert said.
“Young people who often resist getting treatment, young people who often feel like they are giving up hope and there is nothing to make them feel better, maybe that creates a sliver of hope and opportunity, and they will be willing to try it,” Julie Halpert said.
Garrett’s Space will hold its third annual Go24forGarrett’sSpace event, a 24-hour virtual fundraiser starting Sunday, September 11th at 11:00 AM. The event will feature celebrity guests and performers, inspirational speakers, and fitness and meditation classes. To see the lineup and find the live broadcast, tap over here.
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