Tkach Brings Awareness to Mental Health Issues

By Terry Rogers

Nick Brannan, who teaches history at Milford High School, says that his father-in-law, Jim Tkach has spent many hours speaking to high school students in Delaware about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression. On October 12, Mr. Tkach was one of two men awarded the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award by the North Valley District, Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America for “making a difference in the lives of people in the community.

Mr. Tkach and his wife, Sandy, founded the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation in memory of their son, Travis Bo Tkach who took his own life after a long struggle with OCD and depression. William O’Gurek, treasuerer of the foundation presented the award to Mr. Tkach. He pointed out that the foundation founded by Mr. Tkach and his wife put more than a quarter of a million dollars into communities for counseling directed at children and young adults who may be unable to afford the services on their own.

“The Tkach’s were beckoned by God to continue to share the kindness they not only have in their hearts, but that which they spent a lifetime of teaching and sharing, through their children, and now, through the foundation they now head.”

Mr. Tkach was the Northern Lehigh Football Coach from 1992 through 2005, leading the team to numerous league and district championships. He was named Colonial League Coach of the Year four times, District 11 coach of the Year in 2003 and Associated Press Small School Coach of the Year in 2004. He has been inducted into the Lehigh Valley McDonald’s Hall of Fame, Lycoming College Hall of Fame and named Football Ambassador of the Year in 2004.

Bo Tkach was a Northern Lehigh high school graduate and a two-time first team All-State football player, two-time District 1 javelin champion and a member of the 1998 Colonial league Championship team. He was named to ESPN’s Academic High School Football All-American Team in 2000-2001. He graduated from Wilkes University in 2007 as a member of Delta Mu Delta with a degree in business and marketing.  He worked with youth throughout the Lehigh Valley, helping them develop speed and agility. He was a speaker at youth clinics as well as running speed and explosion seminars.

“Bo had more accomplishments than some of us will have in a lifetime,” the foundation website reads. “Unfortunately, he also struggled with depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Like many mental illnesses, they disrupted his wife in ways that others did not see. Despite the never-ending hope and love from his family and extensive mental treatment, Bo ended his life.”

Although he was the one honored at the dinner, Mr. Tkach shared the honor with those who helped him create his foundation and who work to help people with depression and OCD on a daily basis. “We’ve been very fortunate,” Mr. Tkach said. “We have a great group of people who give us faith and service. We all work together for the cause for which the foundation stands.”

Mr. Brannan called attention to Mr. Tkach’s award in recognition of National Mental Health Awareness Day which was celebrated on October 10. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood and thoughts. It affects an individual’s eating and sleeping patterns as well as their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Depression is not just being in a “blue mood,” nor is it a sign of personal weakness or something that people can simply “wish away.” Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years.

OCD is more than just frequent hand-washing or repetitive actions. In someone with OCD, the brain warns of danger that does not exist to the point that rituals, or compulsions, are developed to control the anxiety. Someone with OCD may be obsessed with making sure their home is secure, causing them to compulsively lock and relock their doors. While someone without OCD may do this, they are able to go to bed with the knowledge the door is locked. Someone with OCD will need to check the door multiple times over several hours and could have difficulty remaining in bed due to the compulsive need to keep checking.

According to an article by Science Daily, people with OCD are ten times more likely to commit suicide, although people with OCD often have additional mental illnesses, including depression. The National Institute of Mental Health says that suicide claims the lives of more than 44,000 people each year in the United States and was the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34.

In an effort to raise awareness, the Tkach’s founded their foundation which works to raise awareness of OCD and mental health issues as well as to fund various youth programs for the betterment of children in the community. More information about the foundation can be found at http://www.botach.com.

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