Helping Youth and Young Adults Pursue Their Dreams

Vibrant’s youth programs empower young people on their journey to effectively manage their emotional health and to succeed in life through comprehensive vocational training and supportive educational programs.

274

The number of adolescents served by the Adolescent Skills Center in FY2020.

After years of being bullied at school and struggling with depression, Mari Franqui was looking for a fresh start when she enrolled at Vibrant’s Adolescent Skills Center (ASC) in the Bronx. As a high school senior, Mari finally found the emotional health support and academic resources she needed to set herself on a path for success.

Throughout my first three years in high school, I was told by everyone around me that I would never graduate. From the principal to the school security guards, I absorbed comments like, “It’s going to take you until you’re 25 to graduate.” I already struggled with depression and anxiety, so this bullying took a toll. I started skipping class. I got into fights and was suspended from school. I was in a bad place.

It took seeing my older friends graduate to convince me that I wanted a new direction and ultimately, a diploma. I visited a number of alternative high schools, looking for a fresh start and a welcoming environment. I found that from the moment I stepped inside the halls at Vibrant’s Bronx Adolescent Skills Center. The ASC is a place full of energy, laughter and smiles. The staff do not tolerate drama among students. We’re expected to treat each other with respect and kindness.  

The ASC takes a holistic approach to its services. In addition to school, the Center offers behavioral counseling and job training. Since I enrolled, I’ve taken a rigorous course load, worked weekly, one-on-one with a Case Manager and therapist, and participated in job preparedness classes. It’s like I’m building the whole me, not just the academic side of me. That kind of 360-degree training has built up what I really need to succeed in life -- resilience and self-confidence.

Those traits have come in handy this year in light of the pandemic. I struggled tremendously with the transition to online school. I loathed being stuck inside, isolated from my peers and my support system at the ASC. Close to a nervous breakdown, I picked up the phone and called one of the ASC staff for help. They immediately sprang into action, reminding me of all that I was close to achieving. I felt encouraged to stay the course.

That perseverance has paid off. I was elected class president and delivered the commencement address to our graduating class. After all that I’ve overcome, I want other young people to see my success as proof that you should never give up. If anyone tries to push you down, you should just step higher.

Developing Skills to Navigate Life’s Challenges

Vibrant supports adults coping with complex mental health challenges to develop personalized recovery plans, helping each person obtain the skills they need to achieve independence and effectively negotiate life’s challenges.

99%

The percentage of regular monthly services the active census PROS staff have been able to provide despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

He spent years battling drug and alcohol addiction, eventually losing his wife, his business and his home. After enrolling in the Harlem Bay Network Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS), Devenkumar Vaidya found the support system he needed to get his life and emotional health back on track.

I once had all of the makings of an immigrant success story -- I was a successful small business owner, financially comfortable, married to a loving wife, happy and settled in my adopted hometown of New York City. But in my mid 20’s, I tried drugs and alcohol for the first time, and quickly became an addict. In the process, I lost everything. 

Homeless, jobless and penniless, I tried to end my life. I woke up in the hospital under psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. It was time for me to get my life back on track.

I found that I could get clean, but I struggled to stay clean. I needed a support system to help me take control and develop the skills I needed to effectively adapt to life’s challenges. That’s when I enrolled in Vibrant’s PROS program. At their Harlem location, I worked with a team of PROS advisors to develop an individual recovery plan. 

Together, we focused on building my resiliency through clinical therapy and job readiness training. I started taking medication to help regulate my moods, and I became a regular participant in group counseling sessions. Talking with other adults and hearing about their emotional health and substance abuse challenges helped me realize that I wasn’t alone. I began to come out of my shell and feel ready to reenter the workforce. I took classes with a PROS job coach to learn how to ace a job interview and how to dress professionally. After many weeks of preparation, I walked into my first interview to be a guest service representative at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. And I did it; I aced my interview and got the job! 

Since COVID hit, I have had many difficult days when I need a shoulder to lean on. I look forward to my regular, weekly calls with my PROS therapist. They are oftentimes the thing that gets me through the toughest weeks. When I think about the uncertain months ahead of us, I take comfort in the reservoir of resilience that I developed with PROS and knowing that the staff is only a phone call away should I ever need them.



Devenkumar Vaidya
Harlem Bay Network Personalized Recovery
Oriented Services (PROS)

Providing Life-Changing Support for Families

Vibrant empowers parents, caregivers, and young people to be their best advocate, to successfully navigate complex systems of care, and to ensure they have the tools needed to thrive.

1800+

The number of parents and youth receiving care coordination in FY 2020.

Rising high school senior, Stephanie Velazquez, often felt like the adults in her family and life misunderstood her struggle with depression. When a Vibrant therapist entered Stephanie’s life, they formed a bond that would turn the young woman’s life around.

My battle with depression was often a lonely one. The adults in my life came from a generation that believed you had to “suck it up” when you felt down. So, for years, I tried to mask my true feelings. But hiding my battle with depression made living almost unbearable. Contemplating suicide, I confessed to my high school guidance counselor that I wanted to kill myself. She immediately took action and admitted me to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

Once I was discharged, I began the hard work of learning to manage my depression and build emotional resilience.

I enrolled in Vibrant’s Child & Adolescent Care Coordination program and was paired with Jennifer, my therapist and Care Manager. In the beginning, I was shy and reluctant to engage with her. I had spent so many years around adults who told me to “be strong” that I struggled to trust grownups. But, Jennifer was different. I immediately loved her personality. She is bright and loving, and always laughing. Her positivity is infectious. I grew to trust and view her as someone I could count on.

Jennifer not only provided me with behavioral counseling, but also academic and professional advice, which have been vital to my recovery. Together, we developed a list of goals, including finishing high school and building my resume so that I can achieve my ambition of becoming a qualified nanny or childcare provider. Jennifer identified a high school that fits my academic needs, helped me fill out job applications, and practiced with mock interviews.

Despite the physical limitations caused by the pandemic, the bond between Jennifer and me has only grown stronger. Thanks to technology, she remains by my side, which has ensured that my progress toward emotional wellness hasn’t missed a beat.

Today, I’m on the cusp of graduating high school and I’m actively seeking full-time employment at a daycare center. Most importantly, I feel ready to manage the ups and downs that life throws my way.





Stephanie Velazquez
Participant, Child & Adolescent Care Coordination

Delivering Immediate Support, Anytime &Anywhere

Through national and local state-of-the-art crisis contact lines, Vibrant partners with public and private entities to provide tailored, multi-channel, multi-lingual around-the-clock emotional health support to people in distress.

40%

The increase in contacts to NYC Well during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic began, NYC Well, New York City's flagship go-to-resource for confidential mental health support, crisis intervention, and connection to services, had just five days to shift more than 100 crisis counselors to remote work, all while continuing to provide this lifesaving service. Katherine Polanco, Operations Manager for NYC Well, tells us how she and the counselors adapted meet the needs of her staff, and the people they serve, practically overnight.

March 2020 was the beginning of the pandemic and New York City was at the epicenter of the global crisis. There was so much fear on the streets, in homes and across offices. No one knew what was coming and what impact it would have on all our lives. This was the backdrop NYC Well operated under in the early days of the pandemic. As New York City’s free, comprehensive crisis and support line administered by Vibrant, we knew we had to move our team to an all-virtual work environment, and it had to happen fast. We couldn’t afford to not deliver our essential services.

Over the course of just five head-spinning days in mid-March, our IT and HR departments worked around the clock preparing to transition our 100 hotline counselors into a remote workforce. This included procuring and setting up hundreds of additional headsets, computer monitors, and laptops. Our counselors remained committed to meeting the growing needs of New Yorkers, taking calls from the office until they received the necessary supplies to work remotely. And in a city where most people don’t have cars, they had to be creative to transport their devices home. I’ll never forget watching several of them pack a laptop into a backpack, a computer monitor in one hand, as they headed out the door to the subway. Their commitment ensured the hotline could respond to the spike in call volume caused by the threat of COVID-19.

As the pandemic continues, so too does the overwhelming need for NYC Well’s emotional health services. We have responded by tripling our staff, from 100 to more than 200 crisis counselors. Being able to meet the increased demand for our services has been gratifying. Our counselors are providing support to New Yorkers in emotional distress and helping people find the resources they need. This has never been more important than during this time. The counselors are the mental health heroes of this pandemic.

While this has been an intense and challenging chapter for everyone. I am proud of how our team adapted, without interrupting the support we provide to New Yorkers. We have demonstrated what we always say -- that NYC Well is here for you, no matter the time of day or the crisis you are facing. We show up for you and we give you our all.



Offering Hope and Healing No Matter the Disaster

Whether it was the pandemic, civil unrest, the economic recession, or other human or natural caused disaster, Vibrant was there, and is always there at your fingertips, offering support and resources to get through challenging times.

865%

The increase in calls the Disaster Distress Helpline received in the spring, during the
height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a longtime supervisor and crisis counselor for the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH), which is administered by Vibrant Emotional Health, Karla Rodriguez has supported thousands of Americans in the wake of natural or human-caused disasters. With the events of this past year -- COVID-19, hurricanes, wildfires, civil unrest and others -- this national network of local crisis call centers has been a crucial resource to help people find hope.

I’ve taken more than 20,000 calls as a crisis counselor. I’ve spoken to people in the wake of natural disasters, like wildfires or hurricanes, and in the aftermath of mass shootings. But the COVID-19 pandemic beats everything I’ve helped callers navigate. 

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a young homeless man in California who lived out of his car. He had a daytime office job, but to make extra money to save up for his own place, he had a labor-intensive night job. He relied on gyms to shower and use the restroom. When California announced that the state would close all gyms for a second time, he felt despondent. “I already did this once in March; I don’t know that I can do this again,” he said. “I’d rather be dead.” He felt trapped, not knowing whether pushing forward was worth it. I was humbled by this young man’s story. While we’ve all been impacted by COVID-19, for some, this experience has been so much harder and deeper. 

The good news is that I was able to de-escalate his suicidal thoughts and get him the support he needed. And that’s a trend I’m seeing as a result of the pandemic -- more people are realizing the importance of mental health, and they’re reaching out for support. I’m glad we can be a safe space for people to share their stories and seek out the resources they need to get through this really challenging time. 

Vibrant’s training helps us be there -- active listening with patience and without judgment. I tell callers, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I want people who are struggling to know that the key to resilience isn’t knowing how things will get better, but knowing that they will.