As an active, engaged teenager with a loving, supportive family, Dawson Hoffman seemed to have everything going for him. Excellent grades, athleticism, community involvement. Except, the depression that entered his life after he left an unhealthy relationship kept getting worse. Negative self-talk progressed into suicidal thoughts and self-harm. He needed help, but was reluctant to go to Amberwing and face the stigma of having a mental health problem.
“I didn’t want to go,” Dawson says. “But when I walked in, it felt right. And it got to the point where I didn’t want to leave.”
The 18-year-old assumed intensive therapy would be a lot of work. And it was. Turning your life around is never easy, but it’s always a chance worth taking. Dawson was glad he did. Amberwing, the Duluth-based partial hospitalization program, was nothing like a hospital. Warm and inviting, group and one-on-one therapy was paired with special activities that allowed Dawson to delve into his passion for visual art. A bracelet he created there with a therapist serves as a reminder of his journey through darkness and the many things he’s grateful for in life—like his dog, Dax, and brother, Dane. Hunting experiences and youth service trips with his church. His family, friends and faith. “ I see God in just about everything right now. It’s not something I saw before.”
AMBERWING— Center for Youth & Family Well-Being
More than a mental health facility, it’s where young lives can be reborn with confidence and hope. Your support makes it possible. Learn more on page 10. What changed? “Everyday thoughts. I now have the skills and tools to deal with negative thoughts,” he says, crediting Amberwing’s focus on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). “It’s amazing to walk away with these tools. I wish everyone could have this experience.” He’s learned how prevalent mental health problems are— friends suffer silently with depression, acquaintances die by suicide—because of the stigma. It’s why he’s open with coaches and teammates in football, baseball and basketball. And why, humbled by the support and awareness he’s gained, he’s proud to champion Amberwing. “It’s not at all what I expected. It was really comforting and a very positive atmosphere with such kind people,” Dawson says. “If you’re hesitant about going, just go.”