Prioritizing Teen Mental Health

June 07, 2023

Prioritizing Teen Mental Health

Mental health crises are on the rise and are increasingly affecting teens. Recognizing the need for support, JF&CS has been actively investing in the mental health of young people, first with the opening of the Horwitz-Zusman Child & Family Center in August of 2022 and now with two strategic partnerships in the coming year.


This summer, JF&CS is partnering with In The City camps to provide training and support to parents of campers and counselors. Cari Newman, MAT and Certified Parent Coach will host virtual support groups for these parents, adding a layer of support not typically offered in the setting of a summer camp. HAMSA Program Manager Joel Dworkin will provide substance abuse training to staff and counselors, with continued support throughout the summer. Career Services Manager Amy Albertson will also be on hand, offering resume guidance to counselors.


In a pilot program funded by the BeWell initiative, JF&CS staff recently completed an important training on teen mental health first aid. Community Outreach Coordinator Jessica Sacks and PAL & Young Professionals Program Manager Sarah Bernstein were the first to participate, and the agency has received funding to train additional staff in the coming months.

The training enables JF&CS staff to work with teens, teaching them to recognize the signs of mental health struggles among themselves and their peers. Because peers are typically the first place a teen will go when something is wrong, giving them the tools to identify distress in one another is an essential step to improving mental health in this age group.

“One of the biggest messages trainers will share with teens is to remember that no one ever expects a teen to be a doctor or diagnose,” said Jessica. “Their role is to help themselves and their peers find a safe adult. If they can find a safe adult, they’ve done their job.”

Jessica and Sarah will lead trainings for teens at the Weber School and Atlanta Jewish Academy this fall, and additional schools and community organizations will have the opportunity for trainings in the future. The program is broken into six sessions, all with the overarching theme of breaking the stigma about mental health. The training covers the layers of mental health, the distinction that it is an illness and not a lifestyle or choice, and encourages teens to speak up when they’re going through something. Every session stresses the large number of resources available to teens, and the many ways to find help and support.

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