When Heritage CARES (Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Education & Support) was founded in 2021, the company was primarily focused on supporting and educating people struggling with substance misuse and its underlying causes such as depression and trauma. By mid-2022, the company had expanded its focus to include additional mental health concerns like grief, stress management, and anxiety, and as a result rebranded the company name to Youturn Health to reflect its commitment to providing more holistic mental health education and support.
“We’ve seen a tremendous focus on overall mental health in recent years,” says Hamilton Baiden, CEO of Youturn Health. “The stress of the pandemic really forced Americans to confront the fact that mental health needs to be treated at every level in every home.” Youturn Health’s virtual program combines peer coaching support with online education and family support to help people understand the nature of their struggles and make meaningful steps toward recovery.
Mental health concerns like depression, substance misuse, and suicide were issues before the pandemic, but added stressors like isolation during lockdown, grief from suddenly losing a loved one, financial insecurity, and job instability pushed more Americans to their breaking point. Additionally, recent movements like the Great Resignation forced employers to address stress management and burnout as employees rebelled against toxic workplace environments and Hustle Culture.
According to the CDC, 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in their lifetime. Despite this, Mental Health America’s The State of Mental Health in America report states that half of adults with mental illness do not receive treatment, amounting to over 27 million Americans. There are myriad reasons people may not seek treatment for mental health such as stigma, fear of judgement, and the belief they can fix it themselves. The impact of untreated mental health issues include:
This gap in treatment inspired Youturn Health’s leadership to act. “Through some phenomenal partnerships, we’ve been able to expand our focus to add support for issues like grief, stress, and burnout,” says Baiden. “For example, we had experience supporting people through grief tied to substance misuse – losing a loved one to an overdose or using drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of grief – but in teaming up with Taylor’s Gift, we can now also offer emotional and grief support to families after the sudden loss of a loved one for reasons beyond substance misuse.”
Taylor’s Gift is a nonprofit organization helping families of organ and tissue donors navigate the grief process and was founded by Tara and Todd Storch after the tragic loss of their 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, following a skiing accident. “Grief is different for everyone,” says co-founder Tara Storch, “there is no right way to grieve, but so often we find people don’t know what to do with their pain. No one should ever have to grieve alone.”
Following Taylor’s accident, doctors approached the Storches about Taylor being a candidate for organ donation. Tara and Todd agreed, and Taylor’s generous donation saved and improved the lives of five people. This left the Storches in a complex emotional state. They felt grief over the sudden loss of their young daughter but also felt gratitude that her final act helped improve the lives of others.
Knowing firsthand how complex the grieving process can be for organ donors, the Storches created the Kindred Hearts Program to offer free grief support to donor families. The program is the signature program of Taylor’s Gift Foundation and offers one-on-one and family support with Caring Guides (trained peer coaches from Youturn Health), and support groups to help navigate the grief process.
Caring Guides all have lived experience with grief and loss; they combine that lived experience with education and evidence-backed techniques to help grieving individuals and families develop coping skills to better understand and manage the loss of their loved one. "None of us choose to go through deep periods of grief but I found when I did, I was encouraged when I talked with others who had also experienced deep grief,” said Annalyn, a Caring Guide for the Kindred Hearts program. “It gave me hope that although my life would never be the same, it would go on. I hope to give others a glimmer of hope in their darkness as well."
“The experience of the sudden loss of a loved one combined with the sense of gratitude you feel when that loved one becomes an organ donor – being able to offer a second chance at life to someone else – it’s a complicated mix,” says Storch. “It can be paralyzing, cause depression, affect your relationships, and put a stop to everyday life. The Kindred Hearts program gives families a safe place to talk about what they’re feeling, and the Caring Guides help them learn to take care of themselves while grieving.”
And the program has been a resounding success. Since launching in 2022, The Kindred Hearts Program has 11 Caring Guide peer professionals and has had over 120 people reach out for grief support. Just over the past few months, the program has provided support to over 75 people. Perhaps most impactful is feedback from Kindred Hearts program participants:
“I was set up with [my Caring Guide] to help with the loss of our daughter,” wrote one anonymous participant. “I've done talk therapy off and on for many years and found it helpful to a point. But I have to tell you I am flabbergasted that she has helped my soul feel lighter and move through things in an unbelievable way. It has been so transformational for me. I would love for my son to be able to visit with her too. This thing you do to help people is the most beautiful thing I've ever been a part of. Thank you!”
“It’s time to destigmatize seeking help for mental health issues like grief and stress,” says Baiden. “People shouldn’t have to ‘tough it out’ at the cost of their health and happiness. Education and support are proven to help and thanks to forward-thinking companies like Taylor’s Gift, we’re able to reach more people and help.”
Article written by Richard Jones, Chief Clinical Officer, Youturn Health.