Youth mental health program moves from federation to Jewish family service
The Jewish Family Service seeks to grow and impact more young people in our community by offering engaging programs and events that help them understand the signs of mental illness, coping strategies and the importance of ask for help if they are having difficulty.
Youth mental health issues are on the rise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The media are reporting that more and more children are ending up in hospital emergency rooms and experiencing mental health crises. In fact, three major children’s health organizations recently declared the increase in mental illness among young people a national emergency.
The local Jewish community saw this unfortunate challenge coming, and that’s why the We Need to Talk Youth Mental Health Program was created in 2017.
“We Need to Talk was developed by the Federation and its partners in response to a 2016 community needs assessment which found that a significant number of our young people were struggling with sadness, anxiety and depression. Said Todd Krieger, senior planning director at the Jewish Federation and a member of the team that developed the program. “It was created to raise awareness of mental health issues in our community, reduce stigma and increase access to services. “
Four years after its inception, the day-to-day operations of the program are now transferred to the Jewish Family Service, so the program can be more closely aligned with a community organization that provides formal behavioral health supports. I, a clinical social worker, have been hired as the coordinator of We Need to Talk, and my perspective and experience as a youth mental health professional will help guide the initiative through its next step.
I have seen with my own eyes how young people today are under immense pressure to fit in and succeed and often feel challenged to meet the high expectations placed on them. But that pressure doesn’t have to be debilitating. We seek to grow and impact more young people in our community by offering engaging programs and events that help them understand the signs of mental illness, coping strategies and the importance of asking for help. help if they are having difficulty.
“Since its inception, Jewish Family Service has been an integral part of We Need to Talk and has been an important community partner providing training, program assistance and formal supports,” said Ashley Schnaar, former Youth Mental Health Coordinator who is now associated with the planning of the Federation. “As we continue to work our way through COVID, now is the perfect time to transition the program to JFS, which is well positioned to continue the impactful work that has been started and even take the program to the next level. superior. As the day-to-day operations of the program leave the Federation, we will continue to be involved in program strategy and play a critical role in ensuring that the program is properly funded.
Perry Ohren, CEO of JFS, thanked the Federation for addressing the issue of youth mental health. “JFS is a proud partner of the Federation,” said Ohren. “We will continue to do this vital work alongside the many other community organizations that have worked on it. Together, we can help young people learn to manage their mental well-being and avoid tragic consequences. “
We Need to Talk has made significant progress in achieving its three programmatic pillars: awareness, knowledge and skills, and access. Since its inception, nearly 1,000 community professionals have been trained in mental health and suicide vigilance, more than 5,100 community members have attended 37 events and funding has been secured for more health professionals mental health workers, including social workers in Tamarack camps, school social workers in Jewish schools and yeshivas, and a child psychiatrist at JFS.
“The Federation has done an outstanding job in developing and laying the foundation for this initiative and making a real impact in our community,” said Dini Peterson, program manager at JFS. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the Federation and all the others – from synagogues to day schools to camps – who have devoted so much time and effort to this vital initiative. It is essential that we ensure that the mental health needs of our young people are taken into account.
Julia cohen, LMSW, is the Youth Mental Health Coordinator at the Jewish Family Service.