Garrett Halpert
Garrett Halpert, of blessed memory. (Courtesy of Madeline Halpert)

Garrett’s Space is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young people’s mental health.

Three years ago, in September of 2017, I lost my brother, Garrett Halpert, to suicide. Throughout his short but impactful life, he was a dedicated brother, son, best friend, poet and listener. Though he struggled frequently with his own mental health, when you were with him, he always made you feel as if you were the most important person in the world.

Unfortunately, my brother’s death is not an anomaly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Michigan between the ages of 10 to 24. In the Ann Arbor and Detroit area alone, we have witnessed several young adults die by suicide over the course of the past three years — many of them young Jewish men, like my brother. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting isolating period of lockdown has reminded us once again of the importance of mental health support, and the dire consequences that occur when people cannot access this care.

Madeline Halpert
Madeline Halpert

When someone struggles with alcohol addiction, there are welcoming spaces, such as rehabilitation centers, to seek recovery. But when someone struggles drastically with mental health, the options are often limited to outpatient therapy sessions, stints in the psychiatric emergency room or stays in prohibitively expensive long-term residential facilities.

After my brother’s suicide, this gap in the mental health system became painfully clear to my parents, Julie and Scott Halpert. Together, they have founded Garrett’s Space, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting young people’s mental health. They have also joined forces with the University of Michigan Depression Center and dozens of seasoned mental health professionals in the area who have recognized this same critical need for more expansive mental health support options for our young people.

My parents’ end goal for Garrett’s Space is ambitious but essential: an affordable residential center dedicated to long-term in-patient recovery and support for young adults dealing with emotional challenges. The center will be set in nature, with a focus on holistic coping strategies, such as peer support, yoga, meditation and music, outlets that my brother found great solace in during his times of difficulty. It also will provide support to parents whose children are struggling and ways to cope with broken relationships.

For the summer of 2020, a group of my brother’s friends were planning an all-day, in-person outdoor fundraiser to help raise money for the center. When the original event had to be canceled due to the pandemic, one of my brother’s closest and most beloved friends, Mario Sulaksana, stepped up. A musician himself, he came to my parents with an idea for a 24-hour online fundraiser with a variety of different performers, speakers and classes. In just under five weeks, I have been so impressed to see him realize this ambitious goal.

On Sept. 4, at noon, we will begin a 24-hour live-stream event, Go24forGarrett’sSpace: A Virtual Fundraiser for Suicide Prevention, to help raise money for our residential center. The event will feature free wellness and fitness classes; many speakers, such as Detroit’s own former sports broadcaster Eli Zaret and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell; and gifted performers including Broadway stars Robert Ariza (from the Chicago cast of Hamilton) and Daniel Reichard (who performed in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys). There will also be a brief appearance from Benj Pasek, co-writer of Dear Evan Hansen and songwriter for La La Land, and Grammy-nominated artist Mayer Hawthorne.

Additionally, the live-stream will include several young adults who will be sharing their own struggles with mental health and how they overcame them. As a part of the event, we will also be holding an auction with many gift cards and services donated from Detroit and Ann Arbor businesses and community members.

Every anniversary of Garrett’s death is exceedingly difficult for his beloved family members and friends. With this year comes a particular challenge for me. On Sept. 7, the anniversary of Garrett’s death, I will be 23 — the same age my brother was when he decided to end his life. But on this anniversary, I feel especially grateful to be surrounded by members of the community who are rallying around us during these isolating times to raise money for a crucial cause: the mental health of our young adults.

While my family and Garrett’s friends will always wonder what else we might have been able to do for Garrett, we know now what we can do for others. It is our hope that in creating Garrett’s Space, many other special and talented young adults like my brother will no longer have to struggle alone.

Madeline Halpert is a journalist and JN contributor based in Ann Arbor. The 24-hour “Go24forGarrett’sSpace” will begin on Sept. 4 at noon, and the link to the event will be available on Garrett’s Space’s website, garrettsspace.org, under the events page.

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