New Psychiatric Program Helps At-Risk Youth

Mar 7, 2017

SYRACUSE (WRVO) - Upstate Medical University is launching a program targeted at treating youth and young adults at risk for suicide or other self-harming behaviors. This comes at a time when central New York has a suicide mortality rate greater than the state or national average. 

Credit Ellen Abbott, WRVO

Finding psychiatric help for teens or young adults in central New York is often very hard. Families often run into medical roadblocks -- referrals, long waiting lists and simply not enough services to go around.

The new high risk psychiatry program hopes to change that by offering families a treatment called dynamic deconstructive psychotherapy, developed by Upstate psychiatry professor Robert Gregory. He says the therapy, which gets a positive response in 90 percent of patients, rewires the brain, to change the way teens and young adults handle emotions.

“Patients practice processing their emotions and experiences from recent social interactions, in a different way from what they’re used to doing. They’re used to using different avoidance mechanisms, like substance use disorders or distractions, instead of being able to acknowledge and identify their emotions," said Gregory.

Lisa and David Craig of Syracuse lost their 16-year-old daughter Corinne to suicide on a sunny fall day more than 10 years ago. Their story is one of a medical system that provided no straight path for dealing with a teen in trouble.

“Had a program like this been available to us 11 years ago, our daughter might still be alive today,” said David Craig.

One big problem remains -- most insurance companies won’t cover the therapy. Gregory is optimistic that will change following ongoing discussions with insurers.