May 2, 2023

Dedicated to the Well Being of Our Young People

Rebecca Wanatick, Ed.M. Director, Disability Inclusion & Belonging
mental health event

The Talmud teaches, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9; Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 37a).  

Here in the Greater MetroWest community, we take this lesson to heart and are taking action, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month in May but all year long. Greater MetroWest ABLE, Federation’s department that supports and advocates for people with disabilities and their families, has expanded its role to include mental health awareness. This expansion supports and enhances the valuable work being done in our Jewish Family Service (JFS) agencies, through programming that raises awareness and educates the greater community about the mental health resources available.   

The CDC’s recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that the lives of our young people are significantly at risk. “22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year.” The percentage of teens who reported feeling sad and hopeless is even more significant at 42%. And according to the National College Health Assessment, nearly 73% of college students are experiencing either moderate or serious psychological distress. This report is clear that our teens and young adults are struggling and in need of support.   

I’m excited and proud to share that Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ has received a Be Well grant to support the mental health and well-being of young people ages 12 to 26, their parents, and the professionals who engage with them. This grant, from the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA), is intended to establish a local Greater MetroWest Resiliency Roundtable to better support the young people in our community. ABLE is working in collaboration with JFS clinical professionals, youth serving professionals, parents, and teens/young adults to identify what we currently have available in our community and what needs remain unmet. Bringing together all the stakeholders will enable us to build out programming that directly meets the needs of our community.  

Our initial Greater MetroWest community audit of mental health programming and resources demonstrates that we have many supports available, but that families and professionals aren’t necessarily aware of all these resources. Many of our partners have already recognized the need for increased awareness and support, and have been addressing it within our Hillels, day schools, congregations, agencies, and camps. Through our work at Federation and our JFS partners, we have provided mental health awareness training to many educators, youth professionals, and parents through workshops and Youth Mental Health First Aid Certification.   

Based on initial recommendation of the Greater MetroWest Resiliency Roundtable Steering Committee, ABLE has developed community mental health resource pages for Teens/Young Adults, Parents, and Educators/Youth Serving Professionals to accompany the Mental Health Resource Guide that was developed several years ago. Click here to access these pages and please share the link with others. Getting the word out about available resources is the best way to support our young people. 

Community education and awareness enables young people to get the understanding, support, guidance, and resources they need. When our teens and young adults have access and are aware of resources to support their own needs and those of their peers, they are better equipped to grow into resilient adults. 

Take some time to learn about all that is available in our community by visiting our Mental Health Awareness pages. If you are aware of a program or resource that is not listed, please share it with us so that we can continue to enhance the resources. If you are someone who needs guidance or support, please reach out to me at [email protected] or (973) 929-3129.