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Son’s suicide spurs donation to Upstate’s Psychiatry High Risk Program

Robert Helfrich, who lost his 19-year-old son, Zach, to suicide three years ago, has provided   a $20,000 donation to benefit Upstate’s Psychiatry High Risk Program.

The funds were raised through a variety of fundraising events to raise awareness and funds for Zach Helfrich Memorial Fund and Endowment at the Upstate Foundation. The funds are designated to support the work being done through the Psychiatry High Risk Program and raise awareness around suicide and self-harm prevention.

“Our events seek to raise awareness about suicide and to support ways to help people and families who are in need of this most important treatment,” said Helfrich of Baldwinsville. “The money raised came from many who want to make a difference.”

Robert Gregory, MD, director of Upstate’s Psychiatry High Risk Program, thanked the Helfrich family for the support and said it will be used in a variety of ways aimed at expanding services.

“This money will allow us to treat more people, to expand services, and continue the research that we’re doing on the program so that more areas of the country can actually know about it and start to implement it," Gregory said.

Upstate’s Psychiatry High Risk Program is an innovative, nationally recognized suicide prevention program for youth and young adults (ages 14 to 40) who struggle with thoughts of suicide and opened in 2017. Since opening, it has treated almost 600 patients.

Gregory developed the therapy used in the program, called Dynamic Deconstructive Psychotherapy (DDP). DDP is an evidence-based treatment that was originally developed for borderline personality disorder, but now is used for a wide array of other serious conditions, such as chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders. DDP attempts to address the underlying vulnerabilities of these conditions in order to provide transformative healing leading to recovery. It has proven highly successful in reducing depression, suicide ideation, and hospitalizations for patients at the Psychiatry High Risk Program.

“We are extremely grateful to Rob Helfrich, and all those who have contributed time, talent and treasure to support the events benefiting the Zach Helfrich Memorial Fund at the Upstate Foundation. They not only have contributed desperately needed resources to enhance the Psychiatry High Risk Program itself, but are also raising awareness around the topic of suicide and self-harm and an available treatment option, both will absolutely have a life-altering impact on many patients and families within our community” said Kelly Rose of the Upstate Foundation.  

Caption: Robert Helfriich, left, presents a check to Dr Robert Gregory in support of Upstate's Psychiatry High Risk Program.