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Ensure your child's safety and happiness with Life-Guardians

 As entrepreneurs it’s hard to get out of the business driven mindset. It’s hard enough to fit in everything we want to get done each day, figure out how to juggle our time between our work and our families and try to pencil in some down time as well.

Too often it takes a serious reality check to teach us what is truly important in life and by the time the check is cashed it’s too late to reprioritize.

Greg Cigan’s only son Nathan began to struggle with depression and drug abuse when he was 13-years-old. His parents tried everything to help him through it: counseling, drug rehab, military school, Utah boot camp and Idaho aftercare for two years. In the end, it wasn’t enough. On july 3, 2011 Nathan committed heroin-induced suicide at 23, altering the trajectory of his family’s lives forever.

Amazingly, the terrible blow of losing his only child didn’t cripple Cigan; it strengthened him. He shed his IT tech sales background and started a new mission: to make sure this “ultimate loss” doesn’t happen to other families.

I had the opportunity to talk to Cigan about Life-Guardians Alliance, a program that focuses on bringing better mental health education and support services to local school systems.



What exactly does Life-Guardians do?

We seek to raise awareness and funding for the student mental health programs that local school districts would be able to implement if budget were not an issue.

We work with educators and our Alliance partners to determine the annual costs for what they want and need. Then we take on the responsibility to help find sustainable funding from outside sources like corporate sponsors.

Tell me about the mental health trends you’ve realized since starting Life-Guardians.

After Nate’s death I began investigating the depression, drug abuse and suicide epidemic. I was shocked to find out it is now the second leading killer of kids 14 to 24.

Think of it like this: an environmental disease is considered “epidemic” when it affects three percent of the population. Mental illness in youths affects five times that number, yet goes undetected and thus untreated almost 80 percent of the time.

Education and conversation are the only way to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. We are leaving the pool door open and letting our kids drown in the deep end of life without adequate swimming lessons.

We need to better accept that this is a very real threat to our kids’ futures and it needs a brighter spotlight.



Who are some of Life-Guardian’s Alliance Partners?

Alexian Brothers School Mental Health was our first Alliance Partner, having developed an on-campus clinical counseling program in direct response to seven suicides that occurred in one school year at Barrington High School. In 2009.

Last year Alexian’s program served 6,000 students in six high schools and one middle school. The outcomes included hundreds of interventions and 86 hospitalizations. The cost for this kind of program averaged to only $50 per student annually.

Omni Youth Services is another Alliance Partner that has focused on valuable after-school and personal growth programs for youths for over 40 years.

Our growing Alliance Partner Program is helping increase visibility and communication between service providers who very often have limited insights into each other’s service capabilities.

We see opportunities for greater collaboration in the future between complimentary program providers.



What do you seek from people reading your story?

There are many ways people can contribute to our movement. We have the immediate need of raising $120,000 in our first-year launch funding. We also need introductions to school systems, parent and community groups, loss survivors, companies and church groups interested in helping us provide increased mental health protection.

This movement is not about money; it’s about the young lives we know we can save.

Please spread the word about our movement so more kids can be safe and happy.

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Gabrielle Belavsky
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