Ariel Justine Tesher committed suicide at the age of 20, after a life-long battle with pediatric/adolescent bipolar disorder.
ARIEL'S LEGACY was founded in 2008 by Lynn and Dr. Martin Tesher, to honor the courageous battle waged by their daughter Ariel, and to try to assist other brave and vulnerable children afflicted with this complex and devastating illness, and their families, who struggle daily to survive.
We have established ARIEL'S LEGACY, a non-profit organization, to honor the passionate, courageous battle fought by our miraculous, extraordinary and magical daughter, Ariel Justine Tesher. As is far too often the case with children and adolescents struggling with this devastating illness, our cherished daughter lost her battle and ended her life shortly after her twentieth birthday.
As parents who fought alongside her on this long and painful journey, trying desperately to find help for our daughter,
Ariel's problems were evident from birth, but no one was diagnosing depression of any kind in children at that time. All the symptoms of the illness were blamed on 'bad parenting.'
When our daughter was four years old we began a long series of psycho-educational evaluations and testing as it was clear to us that this wildly creative, brilliant and magical child was struggling with significant learning difficulties
and high levels of anxiety. Finally, at age eleven and a
half, we found a tester who had the knowledge and
sensitivity to uncover, aside from the already diagnosed ADHD, huge language and auditory processing problems. As Ariel was talented and clever, she found ways of
Our daughter was eleven years old when she was diagnosed with bipolar illness by the leading team of doctors in the field. She was one of the first children to be diagnosed with this illness. From the earliest days of her life there were signs that something terrible had hold of this beautiful baby. Throughout her early years we knew little aside from the fact that our daughter was struggling with terrible demons and desperately needed protection. She first talked of suicide at age five, and the suicide ideations became increasingly frequent, and the attempts became increasingly more dangerous. We sought countless ways to help Ariel. When she was six years old we were lucky enough to find a wonderful and wise family therapist who had great compassion and some understanding of what was going on. During the entire journey the family therapist remained, at all times, an important part of our family. When Ariel was eleven, the family therapist attended a conference and heard leading experts speak on the emerging field of study of children with ADHD and manic depressive disorders. She suggested that we contact these doctors, which we did immediately, and the following day we began a week of extensive and extremely thorough testing. At the end of that week we were given the diagnosis of early onset very rapid cycling bipolar II disorder, as well as almost two pages of accompanying disorders. The physician who headed the bipolar unit started Ariel on several medications to try to stabilize her chemically. For the next nine years this doctor was the most involved, knowledgeable and caring physician that anyone could imagine. It is an indescribably difficult task to try and figure out the combinations of medications that can help a child suffering from this devastating illness. Children do not all respond the same to medications. Our daughter was resistant to many of the meds, and often they had very adverse effects. Every parent who is faced with the difficult, life altering choice of putting their child on medications, all of which have side effects, whether it is for diabetes, cancer or brain illnesses like Bipolar Disorder, knows the back and forth arguments which eventually come down to the simple question of whether or not you are ready to do or try anything that will keep your child alive.
Although we were at the door of a hospital before, it was too frightening to leave our fragile, young daughter in a place that appeared dark and frightening ?V where the staff seemed to have little sympathy for a child in such extreme distress ?V so we went back home and back on a constant suicide watch. We finally had a diagnosis and a doctor (in another state) whom we trusted. When at age twelve the illness worsened and Ariel was again in life threatening danger, we found another, more welcoming hospital that provided the acute intervention that was needed to keep her safe.
During the next eight years our courageous daughter was hospitalized nineteen times for suicidal ideation and/or attempts. From the age of thirteen (just after finishing her first hospitalization) until the age of seventeen, with the advice from many placement 'experts,' Ariel suffered through four Therapeutic Residential Schools or Treatment Centers that were unable to provide the help she needed. It was not until she was seventeen and yet again in a Residential Treatment Center that provided neither the psychological, nor the learning support for which they were supposed experts, that we finally found a placement advisor who fully understood both the psychological and the learning issues.
She knew the various programs around the country, the people involved and what they could and could not handle effectively. Ariel desperately wanted to come back home to New York and try to have a 'normal' school year. That lasted a very short time before it became necessary for us to do what we swore we would never do. We had a highly trained team of people come in the middle of the night to escort our daughter to a Wilderness Program where she remained for six weeks. There is something calming about the quiet of the wilderness, almost healing. There are many different types of Wilderness Programs ?V some very frightening. With excellent guidance from the placement advisor whom we had finally found, we were able to enter a clinically based Wilderness Program which helped kids discover resources within themselves to cope and survive. It was an enormously empowering program for Ariel, and although it certainly was not easy, after those six weeks she was ready to enter the first truly well-staffed, caring and clinically well run Residential Treatment Center we had encountered on this long, frustrating and desperate journey.
We wish that there had been a Step Down Program where Ariel could have been in a safe and familiar place while she learned how to use the new tools for survival that she had acquired, and gradually gain a sense of independence in the world outside the cloistered, lock down treatment center.
Had bipolar illness been recognized in children at an earlier time and had we had the benefit of finding proper diagnosis and treatment at an early stage in Ariel's development, it would have made an enormously different kind of childhood possible. Perhaps she might be here to tell you herself the many ways in which proper medical and therapeutic treatment enhanced the quality of her life. Many children suffering from bipolar illness are among the brightest and most creative minds that our society has come to depend upon. The lack of knowledge in the professional world, as well as the lack of understanding and empathy from the public in general, isolates these children and leads to even more suffering for them and their families.
Suicide is the second highest cause of death among teens today. The statistics on bipolar suicides are chilling. It is too late for our daughter, but as she was always the first to try and ease another's pain, we know that, as her parents, we cannot stop trying to help others who suffer as she did. We say a prayer of thanks every day for the constantly caring and brilliant