by Vivian Henoch

With an estimated 1 in 4 people directly affected by mental illness, chances are that every person who reads this sentence has either suffered from a mental health issue or is close to someone who has.

As many of us know, it is our youngest who are among those having the hardest time. Too many young people and their families are under pressure today. Feeling anxious. Or depressed. Too many are struggling in silence.

It’s time we change the culture of mental illness in our community. And that starts with our conversations. At home. In our schools and synagogues. On our social media feeds, in our everyday interactions with friends and family.

In response to the growing need to open the channels of communication and to start those conversations, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has spearheaded a community-wide initiative to support youth mental health. We’ve named it – “We Need to Talk.”

We Need to Talk is our community call to action and is meant to:

  • Educate and create awareness of the prevalence and warning signs of stress, depression and other mental health challenges among young people in our community today
  • Fight the stigma associated with mental illness
  • Reach young people with a positive message of self-worth
  • Provide resources and support for those who need help

One Thing I Wish You Knew from Detroit Federation on Vimeo.

We Need to Talk online is an educational outlet and resource for young people and parents, a live chat line for questions and crisis information, too. The website features videos and articles, wellness tips and tools. We invite you to visit explore and learn more.

In Jewish Day Schools: We Need to Talk is customized mental health programs with local educational expert Julie Fisher.

In synagogues:  We Need to Talk is “Raising the Bar” – an enhancement program for youth and their families going through the Bar Mitzvah experience. In development with Child Psychiatrist and Rabbi, Jeremy Baruch, and Rabbi Rachel Shere, this program is aimed at helping teach young people and their families positive mental health skills, particularly during times of stress.

In partner agencies: We Need to Talk is an enhanced level of training where a total of 850 educators, youth leaders, clergy and other professionals who work with teens and children grades 4 and up will receive safeTALK Training, a half day program that teaches suicide awareness and prevention. A smaller subset of professionals in this group will also receive Youth Mental Health First Aid and ASIST training, a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid.

In parlor trainings: We Need to Talk is a series of “FRED” talks (Focus on Resources, Education and Dialogue) held in private homes where the community will have the opportunity to learn suicide prevention awareness tactics and/or parenting tips to help support their children’s mental health.

Online, offline and all the places in between, we’re all in this together. We Need to Talk is a community campaign growing in momentum and generously funded by the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, The D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation, Deutsch Fund, Howard and Jean Dubin, the Hermelin-Davidson Center for Congregational Excellence, Jewish Family Service, The Jewish Fund, Steven H. Schulman Millennium Fund for Jewish Youth and Norm and Susie Pappas.

We Need to Talk. To add your voice to the conversation, please call Amy Wayne at (248) 203-1483.