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
“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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
“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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