December 7, 2023. Bernardsville, NJ.
Community in Crisis (CiC), based in Bernardsville, NJ, has been awarded a two-year grant funded by the Somerset Hills Community Health Foundation (SHCHF). The purpose of this grant is to create a new Youth Mental Health program for young people in the Somerset Hills and surrounding towns to promote and support youth mental wellbeing. The program will help young people better understand themselves, manage their stress and anxiety, and connect with their peers and their community to increase their sense of belonging and self-worth, as well as to develop the skills needed to manage their mental health and thrive while making healthy decisions.
The youth mental health program will take a two-pronged approach: first, providing mental health support and assisting in developing social emotional learning skills and second, helping young people form developmental relationships with peers and adults that are essential to cultivate their ability to shape their own lives, build resilience and thrive. All activities will be driven by the goal to help individuals feel healthier in mind and body and will be provided in an environment free of judgement and stigma. Program activities will include Mindfulness, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Activities, Pet Therapy, Saturday Service Projects, a Mental Health Support Group led by a licensed clinician, and more.
Mental health challenges in adolescents are increasing. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. In 2019, 21% of middle school and 35% of high school students in the Somerset Hills had considered dying by suicide. (Pride 2019) The pandemic demanded social isolation and missed milestone experiences, and the effect on adolescents’ mental health has been devastating. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 49.5% of youth aged 13-18 live with a mental disorder and suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-14 (National Center for Health Statistics 2020).
By increasing healthy social connections, community involvement, and service to others, as well as building new coping skills, knowledge of mental wellness, and the impacts of substance use on mental health, CIC’s Youth Mental Health program will reduce youth stress, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Building mental wellness will allow young people to focus on their academic success, be more resilient during stressful times, and withstand peer pressure for substance use. These positive effects not only support the young person but impact the larger community as they enter adulthood.
Susan Visser, CIC’s Senior Program Manager, commented, “This is a natural next step in our efforts to focus on the mental health of the young individual. Mental health challenges can raise the risk for substance use; offering our youth healthy lifestyle activities, a safe place where they feel they belong, and an opportunity to seek help and support as they navigate some of the ups and downs that often accompany this age is a huge need. We are thrilled to receive this award and get to work on helping young people cope with all the challenges they face, especially in the wake of the pandemic.”
“SHCHF is pleased to support the adolescent mental health program outlined by Community in Crisis. Recognizing the challenges today’s adolescents are facing for their mental health and avoiding subsequent substance abuse is a priority for funding by SHCHF,” stated Kathy Cummins, SHCHF Chairperson. “We are committed to contributing to interventions in our priority counties and applaud the work being done by CIC.”
Joining the team to help design and implement this programming is Sally Roser, a 30-year veteran of innovative youth development and programming. Roser’s career began at the Somerset Hills YMCA where she worked with children ranging in age from infants to teens, directed family and teen programming, supervised middle school summer travel camp, and oversaw the entire operations of the Early Education Center.
Roser’s passion is rooted in helping youth of all ages develop a positive sense of self through building knowledge, life skills and positive behaviors that foster success. Roser commented, “I like to think of myself as ‘that trusted adult,’ the person in a kid’s life who they can trust and relate to. Being a good, open-minded listener makes young people feel safe and empowers them to be diligent about their own safety. So, I decided to join CiC because I know that I can bring value to the work they do, at a time when their youth programs expand and the organization grows. It’s an outstanding organization with dedicated professionals at the helm, and I am looking forward to playing an integral role in delivering this much-needed programming.”
Established in 2019, SHCHF is a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of New Jersey (CFNJ) and seeks to fund projects and programs that promote healthier individuals and communities in Morris and Somerset counties.
Community in Crisis (CiC) is a grassroots, non-profit coalition formed in 2013 in response to a sudden surge in opioid addiction and overdose deaths in the Somerset Hills. Known as CiC, its mission is to lead and unite communities to reduce the incidence and consequences of substance use and misuse through education, prevention and holistic support in an environment free of stigma.
CiC is widely recognized as an invaluable community asset in addressing substance use and misuse, and is acknowledged locally and county-wide as the ‘go-to’ resource for education, prevention, and support in fighting the epidemic. Our evidence- based, multi-faceted approach was developed using a strategic planning framework and is designed to meet unique community needs and produce sustainable change.
For more information, please contact Susan Visser at firstname.lastname@example.org