Darkness can be suffocating.

Especially when you are a teenager who feels like your entire world is falling apart.

Darkness – the inky black, moonless sky type of darkness that robs your soul of any pleasure – had a stranglehold on 14-year-old Tessa and refused to let go.

“All I felt was darkness, depression, a deep, dark depression,” said Tessa Collins, a freshman in the Independence School District.

“I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t function. I wasn’t like other kids. I was never happy, I was just sad and depressed. I just didn’t know what to do ...”

Many youngsters who feel much the same way become an ever-growing statistic.

But Tessa’s story has an ending that is as bright as the sunshine that creeps through the blinds and helps you welcome a new day with joyous optimism.

Tessa took advantage of Great Circle’s IOP, or intensive outpatient program, 18610 E. 37th Terrace, which offers comprehensive behavioral health services throughout the state. Intensive Outpatient offers nine or more groups led by therapists each week – individual and family therapy, family skills and support groups, safety planning, psychiatry, nursing, case management. Transportation assistance may be available case by case, if possible.

Great Circle can serve as an option for all kids and families who find themselves facing behavioral health concerns stemming from life challenges, such as bullying, peer issues, parent or family struggles and traumatic life events.

The first time Tessa walked through the brightly colored blue door at Great Circle, she began to glimpse the light in the form of program manager Adam Nachum and program supervisor Bonnie Biggart.

“I didn’t think I was ever going to see the light – or feel normal or happy again – until I met Adam and Bonnie,” Tessa said.

As Tessa talks about her journey, Biggart is visibly moved.

“Her comments were quite surprising and nearly moved me to tears,” Biggart said, after Tessa had left the Great Circle offices. “You could tell what she was saying was heartfelt. Tessa and I always had a special connection because she came to Great Circle the same day I started back in February.”

“She is one of our great success stories. She is the reason you get out of bed every day and come here and work with these great kids because you know you can make a difference in their lives.”

Nachum mirrored those comments.

“Light,” Nachum said, smiling. “Light – that meant that Tessa knew that light was possible. It was possible for light to return to her life. And healing is possible. And if it is possible in Tessa, it is possible with our other youngsters.”

Light, hope, healing – these are all the goals of Great Circle president and CEO Vince Hillyer.

“When a child is experiencing a mental-health issue or needs a behavioral health-related hospitalization, it throws the entire family into a frenzy,” Hillyer said. “Our IOP program can serve as that middle ground to possibly avoid hospitalization, and also connect the child to the type of intensive treatment that helps both the child and the family stabilize.”

“We are incredibly proud of the work our staff is doing to help Kansas City area kids and families.

“We are helping to keep children in the home instead of the hospital and giving families the tools they need to support one another more effectively. And that makes the children, the families and our communities mentally stronger and healthier.”

Call 1-844-424-3577 to a representative who can answer questions about IOP, as well as other Great Circle services.