This past Thursday evening, May 8, tremendous inroads were made in the community when key local organizations came together to focus on mental health. These organizations partnered to help local families tackle difficult parenting challenges to better understand and, more importantly, recognize possible “red flags” in, the behaviors of their children. Parents had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Jeremy D. Coplan, world-renowned psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Downstate University, as well as a panel of local mental-health professionals, including Dr. Brucha Lowinger, PsyD, mental-health department coordinator at Achiezer; Mr. Yehuda Klinkowitz, LMSW, program director at TOVA Mentoring; and Moshe A. Yachnes, LMSW, clinical director at Madraigos.

Participants walked away more educated and inspired to be proactive in treating their children’s mental-health issues, if necessary. Rabbi Dov Silver, founder and executive V.P. of Madraigos, explained, “One of the main objectives of this program was to launch a discussion to help parents clarify the most common questions: ‘When do I seek professional intervention for my child?’ ‘Am I overreacting?’ ‘Should I wait and see what happens?’”

The program, generously sponsored by Ushi and Cirri Shafran, opened with inspiring remarks by Moshe A. Yachnes. He warmly welcomed the audience and focused on the motivation as parents to go beyond natural limits and do whatever possible to help their children find inner happiness and reach their fullest potential. He explained that this superhuman love is the ultimate incentive to overcome the burden of time, emotional energy, and possible stigma associated with consultation with a mental-health professional. The audience was impressed not only with the professionalism with which Mr. Yachnes led the forum, but with his great sensitivity to the families facing these complex issues.

Dr. Coplan began his presentation by clearly describing a broad range of potential mental-health challenges. He detailed all the major categories, including depression, ADD/ADDHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder and explained how many of the biggest mental-health challenges can be therapeutically treated if addressed appropriately. His discussion included all variations of psychiatric presentations and recommended possible interventions directly associated with each one. “Dr. Coplan’s ability to stimulate an interactive conversation was truly remarkable,” noted a participating parent. His scope of medical knowledge and understanding of our cultural norms helped create an enjoyable atmosphere while leading an informative conversation on serious, complex topics. Dr. Coplan has a unique perspective that is different from that of many psychiatrists. While he is involved on an educational level, supervising medical students who analyze data and conduct research, he also maintains a successful private practice. He is able to personally see how cutting-edge research and new information actually affects patients and their families.

The program ended with a lively Q&A session. On one occasion, Yehuda Klinkowitz helped parents better understand and cope with the enormous impact the media has on our children. On another note, when asked about recent changes in public awareness and education regarding mental-health issues, Dr. Brucha Lowinger explained that in her 25 years of experience, as both a clinician and in her position at Achiezer, she has never seen such a public shift in attitude towards helping people struggling with mental-health challenges. She discussed that society is more accepting and supportive, where open dialogue is not only tolerated but strongly encouraged. “It was extremely valuable to hear from professionals who have been working within our community for decades and really care,” stated a parent.

Madraigos is available to serve the community in any way it can. Plans are under way for similar educational programs focused on challenging issues that confront our community. To offer suggestions for future programs or to get more information about Madraigos services, please call the office at 516-371-3250 or visit Madraigos, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, offers a wide array of innovative services and programs geared towards helping teens and young adults overcome life’s everyday challenges one step at a time. Their goal is to provide all members with the necessary tools and skills to empower them to live a healthy lifestyle and become the leaders of tomorrow. v

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