Youth Eastside Services offers hope at Invest in Youth breakfast

Mason Bernardo stood on stage to read a message he wishes he had written to himself several years earlier, when he was still identifying as female.

“Girl, you’ve got a hell of a ride ahead of you.”

Bernardo was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and was mired in an abusive relationship. He resorted to self-harm, learning the names of the doctors in the emergency room when he went in for slashing his wrists more than one time.

He then found Youth Eastside Services, which helped provide behavioral therapy and other services which took him from the brink.

“I have not self-harmed in one year, six months and two days,” Bernardo said. “Not like you’re counting or anything.”

His was one of several stories relayed to supporters of the Eastside services at its annual Invest in Youth breakfast Wednesday morning, the organization’s biggest fundraiser. Nearly 1,000 people came to support the nonprofit organization which helps children and families.

Irie McCaughran had a different story to tell, one involving the young man’s descent into drugs.

“I started with weed and alcohol,” he said. “Then I got into prescription drugs, with Adderall and then Xanax.”

He took so much Xanax he blacked out driving home, almost killing two cyclists and himself when he crashed. He started snorting cocaine, smoking meth and mainlining heroin.

It took an arrest to get him in contact with the help he so desperately needed. McCaughran has been completely sober for 173 days.

Shellie Hart, local radio DJ, said she wishes her nephew had early access and use to services like that which Youth Eastside Services provided. If that were the case, she said, she might not have had to go to the medical examiner’s office to identify his body after he took his own life. He was afflicted with schizophrenia and was fearful to get help because of the stigma which might accompany it.

Stories like Bernardo’s, McCaughran’s and Hart’s often don’t have happily resolved endings. The three took the stage to implore those in attendance to offer support and hope for happy endings like in the cases of Mason and Irie.

One of the founders of Youth Eastside Services, Dr. Lee Vincent, died just this last weekend. Patti Skelton-McGougan, the organization’s executive director, told a quick story of how much it meant to Vincent.

“I got the call about Dr. Vincent’s death on Monday morning,” she said. “Just hours later, we received a check from him supporting us.”

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