Talk About It, As Graham Moore Did at Oscars: Teen Depression Affects us All

There, but for the grace of God—and many good professionals and others who understand teen depression—go I.

My family could have suffered the same tragedy as Dana Perry winner of best Documentary Short Subject for “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1″ or thoseDana Perry oscars speech on suicide Lake Forest families who lost teens to suicide in 2012.

“We should talk about suicide out loud,” Perry said, also mentioning her own son who committed suicide at the age of 15. I couldn’t agree more. Graham Moore gave his moving acceptance speech as well, and I salute his comment: “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there that feels weird and different … Stay weird.” You can see more on his speech in this article and video.

Depression strikes up to 20 percent of our adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. If our society doesn’t get smarter about discussing, identifying and treating teen depression—bust the stigma better and faster—there will be others, too.Graham Moore on suicide

That’s why I was so delighted to hear Perry and Moore plead for more awareness and public discussion about suicide, particularly teen suicide.

Every parent and school faculty member working with students from middle school through college needs to know depression’s symptoms and be brave enough to address them when they appear in an adolescent. The symptoms include: loss of interest in activities, sadness, hopelessness, anger or hostility, changes in eating or sleeping habits, lack of energy and loss of enthusiasm.

However, it can be hard to discern between “normal” erratic teenage behavior and “depressed” behavior, as was the case with our child. It can also be hard to discuss with the teen or with others. As the mother of a depressed teen, I felt weak, beat-up, raw. I didn’t think I had the energy to “fight” with or for my misbehaving child any longer. Fortunately, others did and we established a network of support. Eventually, lots of talking about it helped heal our child and our family.

There are a growing number of excellent resources to help identify and deal with adolescent depression. Barrington High School implemented a curriculum developed by Johns Hopkins Medical School, and recently shared it with Lake Forest. Erika’s Lighthouse offers a program for middle schools, a parent handbook and extensive opportunities for teens. The Balanced Mind Foundation has a growing body of helpful content and connections, and several excellent online sites exist including, a nonprofit collaboration with the Harvard Medical School, and the U.S. National Library of Health.

Author Ned Vizzini wrote “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” based on his own hospitalization for depression, and he speaks extensively on the topic to schools. Lake Forest has brought him in at least twice in the past two years.

Currently, professionals believe that only one in five adolescents suffering from depression receive treatment. Those numbers must improve. And the best way for that to happen is for all of us to help bust the stigma and talk about it more. Please also look at our Teen Depression Guide at Make It Better.



Gates Foundation Donation Fuels Women’s Philanthropy Institute

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just awarded a $375,000 grant to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to increase understanding about how and why women give to charity.

Bill and Melinda GatesAlthough this amount is small compared to what the Gates Foundation spends on issues like polio and Africa’s food supply, it could prove to be their most impactful gift.  Women make the lion’s share of philanthropic spending decisions.  In her book, Giving 2.0, Stanford University professor and philanthropist with a mission to make everyone more impactful givers, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen provides substantial data to prove that women drive most philanthropy. And of course, women just live longer, which means they are more likely to control substantial wealth in their estate planning.  The US Social Security Administration calculates that women live on average 2 years, 3 months longer than men. .

Our own Make It Better research proves that 92% of the women in our audience will change their brand loyalty if they think it will make the world a better place.  92%.  That’s an extraordinarily number.  We think that it proves that philanthropy is somehow innate in female DNA. And how much do you want to bet that Melinda was the first spouse to propose the Foundation to the other?Women Give 2014 Report

For the last few years the IU Women’s Philanthropy Institute have published Women Give reports that put it in the vanguard of building a body of knowledge on women’s leadership in philanthropy, and how women think about and practice their giving.  The Gates Foundation grant will build on that foundation.

Better understand how and why women give, and the world will be changed for the better even faster.  Thank you Melinda and Bill Gates.





“The Mask You Live In” Changing National Dialogue on Masculinity

“Men need to model whole healthy masculinity and women need to value this…

“We saw a few great commercials during the Superbowl that talked about real strength – about men not being physical but rather about them being caring and compassionate, taking care of loved ones.”

       – Jennifer Siebel Newsom, from MIB TV Q&A

She has a Stanford MBA, is a member of the Global Advisory Board of the Dove Self Esteem Project and a Commissioner of the Girl Scouts Healthy Media Project. Her husband is California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and – oh yeah – just d
jennifer siebel newsomeclared his candidacy for Governor while she was speaking to a group in my Chicagoland sun room. But, it’s Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s role as a mother of three young children that really drives her.  Newsom is on a mission to forever change damaging stereotypes and our national conversation about gender through the nonprofit she founded – The Representation Project  – and her work as a document
ary filmmaker.

TRP uses film and media content to drive social change. Her first film about female stereotyping – the award-winning “Miss Representation” – sparked passionate national conversation. TRP’s efforts led to change for the better in Superbowl commercials this year. 

The Mask You Live In” is TRP’s newest film.  It’s the male counterpart to “Miss Representation” and premiered nationally to rave reviews at Sundance Film Festival.  It premiered regionally a few days ago through a Family Action Network (FAN) screening.  Please see it. And please be sure to watch it with the males in your life too.  My husband was so moved that he immediately found our son to discuss it with him too.

To learn more about Newsom, The Representation Project and “The Mask You Live In,” please watch our Q&A with Newsom on MIB TV here.

mib TV

Dare2Tri Helps Athletes Overcome Disabilities

“I will be talking about the sports that I do—and I will hopefully change the world.” – Gabi Berthiaume, age 12, born with Spina Bifida.

When she was four months pregnant, doctors told Gretchen Berthiaume that her child would never walk—probably never do anything but sit on a couch. “Never, never, never,” is all she heard. Her daughter Gabbi was born with spina bifida, a condition characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and meninges, which can lead to paralysis.

Berthiaume says she and her husband weren’t going to take “never” for an answer.

“My husband and I said ‘Oh heck no,” Berthiaume says. “We would look for whatever opportunities we could find for our child.”

Flash forward 12 years, and Gabi, or the “energizer bunny” as her mother calls her, can barely find time to stop moving. While confined to a wheelchair she participates in multiple adaptive sports programs her parents have helped her find, including track and field, dance and hockey. She has finished five triathlons.

image (4)

Gabi’s energetic, resilient personality is apparent through our phone conversation.

While participating in her last triathlon in Wauconda, Ill., Gabi crashed and had to be taken off the course in an ambulance. Berthiaume describes the incident as pretty scary, recalling Gabi’s “smooshed and roadrashed” face. Fortunately she didn’t break any bones.

“Mommy, I was fine, OK,” Gabi pipes up from the background. “And at least we got to have ice cream!”

The 12 year-old was not deterred by her accident and she has already signed up for a 3-day triathlon clinic that will take place in May.

Gabi was first invited to participate in a triathlon by Keri Serota, co-founder and executive director of Dare2Tri, an organization that helps people with disabilities participate in triathlons. Gabi first met Serota while Serota was working at the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association in Kenosha. Gabi has been participating in GLASA programs since she was six years old.

“She [Serota] just inspires the kids to do their best, be their best and have fun,” Berthiaume says.

Serota has asked Gabi to speak on a panel of young athletes at Dare2Tri’s Play For All event for the last four years and she will speak again this year. The event will take place at the Chicago Children’s Museum on Feb. 14, and will present a variety of interactive adaptive sports activities as well as the athlete panel.

When asked about what she will say to the audience and her peers at the event, Gabi responds emphatically.

“I will be talking about the sports that I do—and I will hopefully change the world.”

Please see information below for event details.

What: Dare2Tri Play For All day

The Chicago Children’s Museum will open an hour early on Feb. 14 to host families of children and veterans with disabilities.

Dare2Tri will be displaying a variety of hands-on, adaptive sports activities including a See, Touch and Feel prosthetics display, goalball, roller sled hockey, a Pedal and Scoot Triathlon and an athlete panel. The panel will feature triathletes, like Gabi, who were either born with a disability or acquired one later in life. The athletes range from ages 9 to 16 and will share their stories about overcoming adversity. It’s about kids talking to kids, says Keri Serota, Dare2Tri executive director.

Sign up here.

Where: The Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

When: Saturday, Feb. 14

The organization: Dare2Tri works to help people with disabilities train for and participate in triathlons. The idea for the program started in 2010 when three friends and triathletes—Keri Serota, Melissa Stockwell and Dan Tun—were brainstorming ways to get more people with disabilities involved in the sport. Serota, Dare2Tri’s executive director, was working for Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) at the time and says Dare2Tri’s original goal was to be another program that organizations like GLASA or park districts could offer to their communities.

The founders initially hoped to serve eight to 10 individuals. The three friends felt they needed more legitimacy as a staff and wrote a grant to the US Olympic committee for the funding to become certified triathlon coaches. Then, in September of 2012, Serota left her position at GLASA to build the Dare2Tri organization full-time. In 2014, Dare2Tri served over 230 athletes ranging from 6 to 71 years old. Their athletes mostly compete in local competitions in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin but their “elite team,” a group of extremely dedicated athletes, competes in national and international competitions.

Written by Maura Flaherty for Make it Better.

Please visit our site and sign up for our Better Letter to receive updates twice weekly.


Round Up of Content from Make It Better Magazine

“It’s been said that the best way to teach children is through example.” Jenny Muslin, Make It Better writer, Skokie Schools Raise Money To Help Kids Around the World.

Our talented writers and editors at Make It Better again offer articles and inspiration to help you make life better for yourself and others you this week.  I particularly want to highlight these:

Skokie Schools Raise Money Through Music

A team of teachers and musicians are leading the way for the students at Skokie’s John Middleton Elementary School and McCracken Middle School. It’s practically kismet that the key players involved connected through their love of music and philanthropy. Read more…..

Twitter Makes Life Easier for Busy Moms

Twitter is all the rage. The signature blue bird appears on nearly every web page, and the younger generation is flocking to Twitter rather than other forms of social media. But, Twitter isn’t just for kids. Increasingly, busy moms are using it to connect with one another, to stay on top of current affairs and even to save a little money. Read more…..

College Tours: The Ivy League

Congratulations! You’ve got a high-achieving kid who’s thinking Ivy. Gird yourself, because the college application process is torturous. But the campus visits? A piece of cake, especially with our tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do while you’re soaking up the atmosphere on site. Read more……

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Internet’s Own Boy – Aaron Swartz Story Inspires, Informs & Promotes Conversation.

Every day Aaron asked himself, ‘what is the most important thing in the world that I could be working on right now?’ … Although we’re completely shattered by this experience, we want to further Aaron’s work too and see something positive come out of this.Robert Swartz, Aaron Swartz’ father

Even if you don’t know who Highland Park’s Aaron Swartz is – or rather was – you or your children know some of his visionary web inventions. They include the RSS feed and the online news site Reddit. Swartz was a genius.  He was driven to use the web to make the world a better place for as many people as possible.  And this is what led to his death.

On January 11, 2013, at age 26, Swartz committed suicide in response to a wrongful federal felony prosecution based on his downloading documents through the MIT library system, which he was entitled to do.  As Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, CoCreator of the World Wide Web, eulogized at Swartz’s funeral, the world lost one of its most promising minds.

Everyone should see the powerful documentary about Schwartz’s life – “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.”  But it will particularly inform parents of gifted children looking for role models, anyone hoping to better understand the power and inherent possibilities of the digital world, and citizens confused by “keep the internet free” rhetoric.Aaron Swartz The Internet's Own Boy

By the time he was 12, Schwartz had created the first web version of Wikipedia.  As a teen, he worked alongside adults when he helped create the RSS feed and Reddit.

Note:  if you don’t yet know, you should.  Every significant, savvy American luminary participates in it’s’ AMA –“Ask Me Anything” – opportunities, including President Barack Obama. Your kids are more likely to get their news from Reddit than from any of the sources you prefer.

Schwartz was the oldest of three very bright boys, who all attended North Shore Country Day School. As the documentary carefully depicts, Schwartz’s parents lovingly nurtured him and his extraordinary gifts, allowing him to leave high school early to attend Stanford.

Stanford UniversitySchwartz also left Stanford early because he had already made a bucket-load of money through the sale of Reddit. Thereafter, Harvard and MIT welcomed Schwartz into their programs too.  Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessing credits Swartz with inspiring him to change his famously successful professional path, just as the teen affected so many others to do too.

Despite MIT’s culture of pushing traditional boundaries and open web access, Swartz was charged with multiple felonies and hounded by US prosecutors for downloading documents through the school. His intent was never to profit from the activity; rather Swartz hoped to make a valuable point for the rest of the world.

Even as Swartz fought the wrongful charges, he led the surprisingly successful movement to stop enactment of “SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) and other laws that would limit access to the internet and valuable information.  He continued to lead with his heart every day.  But his battle with the criminal justice system overcame him.

Everyone who grasps the transformational possibilities of the internet – like Berners Lee and Lessing – mourns Swartz’s death.  The rest of us need to better understand the issues which led him to kill himself too.  Parents who watch this documentary will have additional tools to connect with and help their own children too.

I will soon be interviewing Swartz’s father, Robert.  Of course I want to help a parent trying to carry on his child’s dream of making the world a better place!  Do you have any questions that you would like me to ask him too?

Please also submit your email here to receive our Better Letter, a twice-weekly newsletter covering the highlights of Make It Better Media. Founder Margot Pritzker talks with Make it Better


Margot Pritzker knows volunteerism and civic service; she has served, chaired, founded nonprofits most of her adult life.  Better yet, Pritzker is a proactive visionary – my kind of woman. She sees need, sees a solution, makes it happen.  WomenOnCall is a good example.

Pritzker saw nonprofits’ need for volunteers with professional skills like law, accounting and marketing (Pritzker herself holds degrees from Northwestern University and University of Chicago), a large pool of talented women naturally inclined to help give back, and the internet’s potential to easily match the two.  So she launched WomenOnCall, which pairs nonprofits in need of specifically skilled volunteers with women who possess those necessary skills.

This elegantly simple concept not only helps the nonprofits, but also empowers the volunteers by strengthening their employment skills, growing their confidence and enhancing their resumes.

Most of the matchmaking work is done through an easy-to-use online database for potential volunteers and nonprofits. However, at least once a year, WomenOnCall holds an event called Meet & Match for the two cohorts to meet and vet each other in person (think volunteer speed dating).Women on Call meet

In advance of WomenOnCall’s 9th Annual Chicago Meet & Match event on Feb. 19, sponsored by JPMorgan ChaseLatham & Watkins and Table XI, I interviewed Pritzker at her family office overlooking the Chicago skyline.  Please read this Make It Better interview here

Please learn more about WomenOnCall or sign up for the Meet & Match here.




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