Candles Are Lit for Keith Vidal


On New Years eve, I celebrated the tremendous breakthroughs we witnessed in mental health in the blog, Dreams Came True in 2013. Now, a week later, the nightmare of this public health emergency wakes us up once again. The tragic death of Keith Vidal, a teen in North Carolina who lived with schizophrenia shakes us all to our core. A 911 call made by a family seeking help for their son experiencing a medical emergency resulted in his unnecessary and preventable death. In the aftermath of these tragedies, I sometimes recommend that we sit with the outrage and grief to assure that we don't disconnect and forget. Other times I suggest that we take action. Today let's do both.

This is the third time in a month that I sit with candles lit in memory of the tragic loss of life due to mental illness. In honor of Keith Vidal, please take a moment, pray if that is what you do, light a candle, pause in commitment to helping ensure the millions of people like Keith are respectfully and safely cared for in times of crisis.

Then take action. Share this blog, learn more about brain disorders, give of your time or resources, get involved with a mental health organization, look for advocacy opportunities in your community, sign petitions. We must unite and one of the most important things that we can do is to try to stop judgment, listen and show compassion for people living with brain disorders.

The action we have taken in prevention at the Flawless Foundation gives us hope even in these darkest days of grief that plague our country way too often. One example of this hope is our work in New York City where in just two years we have sponsored trainings for thousands of mental health professionals, educators and parents in an evidence-based approach to working with kids with behavioral challenges called, Collaborative Problem Solving.

This work has been so well received by the administrators of the Department of Education that Dr. Stuart Ablon and his team from Massachusetts General Hospital were then asked to train over five thousand school safety agents from the New York Police Department in the past six months in this compassionate, more humane way of working with kids with brain-based behavioral issues.

They hope to roll out a massive initiative in public schools to train adults in understanding the philosophy behind Collaborative Problem Solving which is "kids do well if they can" and that behavioral challenges are the result of a lack of skill not will -- similar to a learning disability. Once equipped with effective skills and coping tools -- and surrounded by adults in their lives who can reinforce these ideals -- healthy relationships can develop and kids can flourish.

As a major part of the movement toward mindfulness as a therapeutic practice for children, we have also sponsored trainings for professionals working in the juvenile detention system, hospitals, residential treatment facilities and special schools in trauma and holistic healing practices such as yoga and meditation.

Training the adults who work on the front lines in stressful and trauma filled environments is crucial to making impactful change for all. The Empowered Youth Initiative video below is an inspiring example of the work that is being done to train the heroic adults who facilitate peace and healing in our most at risk communities.

Today we light a candle. We also balance unspeakable grief with action as we continue to support the teaching of self-regulation and self-care principles to children, teachers, parents and authorities in an effort to save the lives of other young people like Keith Vidal.