Meaning of service is work done for others as an occupation, benevolence or charity. If this definition is true than Donna Quach epitomizes service.
Born in a military family, she followed their legacy by serving the country in the military and is still a US Army Medical Reservist. Upon graduating from the University of Phoenix and Army Medical School (AMEDD), she became a licensed marriage and family therapist and started her practice in Burbank, CA. She specializes in individual, couples and family therapy where she focuses on high risk and trauma.
Donna’s passion for helping others didn’t stop there. She founded You Matter-Not Alone (YMNA), a charitable organization dedicated to suicide prevention and suicide awareness.
In light of increasing suicide rates in the country, especially among veterans, the elderly and LGBT youth, I sat down with Donna to discuss her work and YMNA.
Tell me about your background in terms of education and training as a clinical psychotherapist and in the military.
I have a bachelor degree in psychology and business management, along with a Master degree in counseling/therapy. I’ve been a mental health therapist for about 15 years and have worked for-profit and non-profit companies for numerous years. In 2009, when I became licensed as a Marriage Child Family Therapist, I decided to leave the non-profit world and opened my own private practice in Burbank CA.
As for my military background, I never thought I would ever join the military just because I saw the sacrifice my sister had to endure as a military wife whenever my brother in law deployed to the Middle East. I often saw her and her family move every three years and it made it difficult to maintain a close relationship when my niece was born, which was a place I knew I didn’t want to be if I had a family one day. It was a tuff decision but in 2011, I felt like there was higher power calling for me to use my psychological skills to help our country. I decided to join the Army in 2011 to help Soldiers who were returning back from post-war after the 9/11 attack. Trust me, it has been quite a journey for me and certainly at the end of the day I am truly proud to protect/defend our country. I belong to the 7452 Medical Battalion in San Diego. I am a Medical Specialist and my role is to provide medical operation support to other deploying/mobilizing units when needed.
Please explain why you founded You Matter-Not Alone (YMNA), a suicide prevention and suicide awareness charity.
You Matter- Not Alone (YMNA) originally started with my clinical therapists and I were sitting in our office, and sadly discussing yet another teen’s suicide at a school, just five miles down from our office. Frustrated and feeling hopeless of the rising suicidal rate and addressing severe trauma that our younger kids were experiencing from being bullying at the local school, we felt that we need to start an organization. Our organization would go into the community, schools, military installation to educate children, teens, professionals, individuals on suicide prevention and anti-bullying awareness so no one with mental illness dies by suicide.
Our mission is to keep our children and the community safe by educating individuals on mental illness and suicide prevention and anti-bullying awareness for being different. My trained clinical psychotherapists and I, along with my volunteers travel to schools, attend public events and military installation on a pro bono basis to provide mental health outreach service. We also attempt to establish healthy partnerships with a local non-profit organization to offer our clinical skills and provide support as needed.
Suicide is an equal opportunity problem but does YMNA concentrate on any specific group, such as veterans, the elderly or LGBT?
No, suicide has no specification to age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, as mental illness can affect anyone. The statistic shows a highly significant suicide rate by middle to older age, white Caucasian men.
Schools have asked us to NOT bring up the word “suicide” in fear that students may want to try to carry out the behavior. Another issue that we face is that our society still has a stigma about getting help and talking about our own mental health problems; there are still negative views when someone seeks therapy in fear that there will be natural consequences such as loss of work, possibly demotion, and relationship issues around personal shame/guilt.
What are some of the things that the general public doesn’t know about suicide?
Suicide is the 10th cause of death in the US, as young as ten years old and it continues to be on the rise. Many people who die by suicide without any real mental health condition is due to daily life stressors that impair their well-being. Relationship problems and other life stressors such as criminal/legal matters, persecution, and eviction/loss of home, death of a loved one, a devastating or debilitating illness, trauma, sexual abuse, rejection, and recent or impending crises are all associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts in America. Many individuals who feel powerless over their situation, unfortunately, believe suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem.
Mental health and access to it are keys to preventing suicides.
How does YMNA contribute as a group/ mental health professional?
As a team, we teach individuals that people generally don’t want to die. However, having an untreated mental illness will lead someone to commit suicide; there is a part of them that is severely in pain, and they want that part to end. We teach students about the importance of identifying stressors that causes them to feel depressed, sad or anxious inside, and learning to use their coping skills to help them manage their overwhelming emotions and the importance of asking for help when help is needed. Additionally, we educate kids with different ways to help their friends, peers if they are expressing that they are depressed or having suicidal thoughts.
How is your organization funded?
We are currently a for-profit and in the process of turning our organization into a non-profit 501(C)
How can the public help?
The public can help YMNA by volunteering, following our social media for update events and lastly, the donation will allow us to continue our work.
What more would you like to add?
I would encourage any individual to seek help, whether it’s attending a support group, psychotherapy or grief counseling if they have lost anyone to suicide. Families with loved ones who commit suicide often suffer silently, and hold on to the pain of the deceased; they can suffer from guilt, regret and subsequently experience depression. This is why as a community, we must change the culture and end the stigma so that people who are emotionally struggling can get help, and talk about their problems. Individuals can call also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or text talk at 741741 and talk to live counselor for further help.
How can people get in touch with you and YMNA?
You Matter-Not Alone