Mental Illness (271505)

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services has been awarded a $1 million grant to expand its suicide prevention program, which provides services to young people under 24 and their families, including crisis intervention, therapy and support, as well as training and education.

The grant came from the Everychild Foundation, made up of more than 200 women who, annually, each donate $5,000 to fund a single $1 million grant to launch or expand a project that eases suffering of local children. It’s the 19th annual grant awarded by the foundation, which has given more than $17 million to help Los Angeles area children and their families in need since 2000.

The expenses covered by the grant include an upgraded crisis call/chat data system a proposed new Hirsch center in Century City, software for data analysis, video conferencing equipment, a generator to run the crisis line during disasters and outages, 28 sound-proofed crisis line cubicles, and related furnishings.

“The women of Everychild are so grateful for this important opportunity to bring more resources and attention to suicide prevention,” said Everychild founder and president Jacqueline Caster.

“Until recently, the topic of suicide was only discussed in hushed tones and out of the public eye, as it was considered a shameful act,” she said. “Today, views have changed, and it is widely known that when a young person has suicidal thoughts, they are mostly a result of untreated mental health issues. If this new center, with an increased capacity to help and to publicize the program, can save even just one young person from taking his/her own life, this new grant will have been a tremendous success.”

Dr. Kita S. Curry, CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, said the agency could not meet the increasing need for its services without a larger home and state-of-the-art technology and equipment.

“With its generous support, the Everychild Foundation has made a commitment to one of the most stigmatized and neglected health risks facing youth and young adults’ suicide,” Curry said. “The suicide rate doubled among 10- to 14-year-olds in the last decade, and it is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds. Thanks to the Everychild Foundation, in our new Suicide Prevention Center, we will have the room and tools needed to expand services for this vulnerable group.”

The primary aim of the newly renamed Everychild Suicide Prevention Program is to alleviate the hopelessness and despair that prompt suicide attempts and deaths among youth by:

— reaching more individuals 24 and younger in Los Angeles who are contemplating suicide or are worried about a friend in danger of suicide through the call/chat Crisis Line;

— training more middle school, high school and college students, teachers and parents to recognize and respond to warning signs of suicide; and

— launching a new suicide loss support group for teenagers using a tailored curriculum developed by Didi Hirsch.

Didi Hirsch was founded in the 1930s by a few philanthropic women who sought to fund psychiatric care for families devastated by the Great Depression, and grew to become the first nonprofit mental health clinic of its kind in Los Angeles County. Last year, with a staff of 500 and 200 volunteers, Didi Hirsch provided services to more than 127,000 clients of all ages.