(484) 873-3547 hello@apathtohope.org
On a Monday morning in September of 2017, our son, who had just 3 weeks earlier started his freshman year of college, bravely reached out for help for the anxiety and depression he had been dealing with in silence. My heart broke as I realized the magnitude of the struggle he had been fighting alone. I was a nurse, I would fix this….or so I thought I could….. The next year proved extremely difficult. Navigating a broken system with little information, and even fewer available resources proved more difficult than we could have ever imagined. Being an RN for 24 years, I could not believe how fractured the system was. We did the best we could through trial and error and remained hopeful that eventually, we would find the right fit. Our path was rough and bumpy at first, but we continued to educate ourselves and never gave up hope. Eventually, we did find the help he so desperately needed, and the process of healing began. During this same time, our close-knit community of Downingtown, PA had lost several young lives to death by suicide in under one year. We were in crisis. Something had to change, the conversation needed to be started, the stigma needed to end. Help needed to be accessible. This was the impetus for me to create A Path To Hope. With the encouragement of a dear friend, my non-profit, A Path To Hope, was born and I began the most fulfilling and rewarding journey of my professional career. My mission was simple; to offer support and guidance and to jump-start the process for parents and caregivers needed to access mental health services for a loved one. Having “been there” does not make me an expert by any means, but it does allow me a unique perspective along with my 26 years of nursing experience to share what I have learned. To have a starting point and source of information is a tremendous time-saver and hopefully will make the process a bit easier to handle. I know what I needed during our search and what I wanted to know, so I hope to provide that through our website (www.apathtohope.org), blog, community presentations, podcasts, and our annual resource fair. I held the first mental health resource fair on March 2, 2019, with 31 mental health providers and service representatives. Over 200 people came out to gain valuable information. Not bad for a 4-month-old (at the time) organization, started by a mom (who is also a nurse) with the help of a few friends! This annual event was the first of its kind and has been replicated across Chester County by different groups spreading awareness of available help in our area. Our organization has grown beyond anything I could have imagined. In May of 2021, an amazing “God Wink” occurred, and Carmen Mulhern agreed to join me as Assistant Director to continue the momentum. Mental health was not something I thought I would have to be an advocate for, it was not a topic I was passionate about, but this path was chosen for us, and I will honor that responsibility. I will not allow what my family has been through or the struggles of those around us to be for nothing. I hope to turn the most horrible time in our lives into something positive, something we can be proud of. With Appreciation, Holly O’Connell, RN, BSN Founder and Executive Director – A Path To Hope Non-Profit Corporation