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  Mt. Everest 2005: Monica Kalozdi


 

In May Monica Kalozdi, a New Orleans mother of three, will climb Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.  She has already climbed four of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains in each continent.

            Monica has always climbed mountains with personal satisfaction as her goal.  This year she has chosen to add another purpose to her climb – to raise money for teen suicide prevention.

            “As a teenager, I had a first-hand experience with the consequences of teenage depression when a friend made a suicide attempt that has left her, to this day, a quadriplegic,” Monica sadly recalls.  “To climb a mountain, you must conquer obstacles and fears,” says Monica.  “To climb out of depression you must also conquer obstacles and fears.”

            To lead the efforts to prevent teen suicide, Monica and her husband Jeno have made a major gift to Teen Life Counts (TLC), a community wide school-based suicide prevention program.  Through Jewish Family Service, TLC reaches 7,000 teens each year in 45 public, private, and parochial schools in a five-parish area.  Seven hundred were referred for counseling last year.  There is now a need to expand this program to the Northshore, which is experiencing the highest rate of suicide in the state.

            Monica’s progress up Mt. Everest will be tracked through photos and information transmitted via satellite to her website.  Reaching the top would make Monica the first woman in Louisiana to conquer Everest.

            Intensively training for her Mt. Everest assent, Monica is running, weight-lifting, and climbing the stairwell of the 28-story Pan Am Building.

            After her return there will be a celebration for her efforts and rally for teen suicide prevention at a Climb of Your Life Base Camp Celebration.  This gala will replicate a “real base camp.”  Sponsors will view special footage of her climb and hear motivating words from an inspiring woman who will have made the climb of her life.

FAQS ABOUT TEEN LIFE COUNTS

Question: What is the Teen Life Counts program?

Answer:  Teen Life Counts (TLC) is the most comprehensive school-based teen suicide prevention program in the Greater New Orleans area.  The TLC program sends professional staff and 35 trained community volunteers to teach a four-part curriculum on teen suicide prevention to students in local high schools and several middle schools.

Question:  Who benefits from Teen Life Counts?

Answer:  The TLC program was established in 1984 and has grown tremendously.  Originally reaching only a few hundred students, we now reach over 7,000 students in 45 public, private, and parochial schools in Greater New Orleans each year.

Question:  What does the Teen Life Counts program teach?

Answer:  Students learn how to identify warning signs of depression and suicide, how to talk to a troubled friend, and where to go to get help.  They are also taught the importance of breaking a secret to save a life and the danger of alcohol and substance abuse by those who are depressed or suicidal. 

Question:  How does Teen Life Counts save lives?

Answer:  At the end of each presentation, students are asked to fill out evaluation forms indicating whether or not they or their friends need help for depression or suicidal ideation.  These students, about 700 annually, are immediately referred to the school counselor.  The TLC staff follows up with the counselors to make sure that no student falls between the cracks. 

Question:  Who coordinates Teen Life Counts?

Answer: Teen Life Counts is coordinated by the professional staff of Jewish Family Service (JFS), a non-profit agency dedicated to providing psychological and social services to New Orleans area families, children, elderly and adults, regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay.  Plans are being made with Youth Service Bureau (YSB) to expand this program to the Northshore. 

Question:  How is Teen Life Counts funded?

Answer:  Funding for Teen Life Counts comes from United Way, grants, foundations, individual donations, and an annual fundraising event.

Question:  What does the community have to say about Teen Life Counts?

“Your program has been of great assistance to me in dealing with the mental health issues of the student population.  As a result of the program which you presented here this fall, three students with active suicidal ideation were referred to me by other students.  We were able to refer them for appropriate psychiatric assistance and thereby avert tragedy.  Also, as a direct result of your program 16 students suffering from various degrees of depression, six of whom had considered suicide, referred themselves to me for intervention….You have helped to save lives here and helped to enable students who might otherwise have become tragic statistics to continue their education so that they may in time contribute a great deal to our larger society.”

Social Worker, Benjamin Franklin High School

“The professionals who facilitate the program are very competent in their areas of expertise.  Their willingness to spend time here at Jesuit High School is an immeasurable community service.  There is no way to truly measure how many lives are touched by your unconditional positive regard for those in need.”

Director of Guidance, Jesuit High School 

“Commendations to the staff and volunteers of Teen Life Counts.  I applaud you for your hard work and dedication to suicide prevention and our youth.”

Senator Mary Landrieu

“Our teachers and students were made aware of the overt and covert warning signs of suicide and depression.  One noticeable change has been the attitude about suicide.  In the African American culture, suicide is considered a ‘rich white males’ disease.’  ‘I feel like killing myself’ is a common everyday expression of displeasure and is dismissed without a second thought.  Through education, the teachers and students are more cognizant of the signs of suicide and depression, and are taking immediate action to get help….This program has significantly affected attitude, heightened intervention, improved the quality of life, and saved lives.”

Counselor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School 

“The physicians of this country are committed to reversing the startlingly high youth homicide and suicide statistics that exist in the United States; we rank highest amongh the 26 wealthiest nations.  I know you will agree that the answer is prevention through increased public awareness and intervention with youth at risk….Jefferson Parish Medical Society has long been committed to teen suicide prevention through our support of your Teen Life Counts program.  We are proud to be associated with such a highly regarded school-based suicide awareness and intervention program that reaches so many teens in our public, private, and parochial schools.”  

Executive Director, Jefferson Parish Medical Society

 

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