June 27, 2018

Positive Mental Health Is Theme of Festival

As part of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July, Millhill Child and Family Development’s Next Generation Community Leaders (NGCL), will host a community wellness festival on Saturday, July 21 at MLK Elementary School, 401 Brunswick Avenue, Trenton.

The festival is the year–long outcome of the NGCL youth-led civic engagement project and is designed to raise awareness, educate the community about mental wellness strategies, and empower attendees to “Embrace You!”

“We are so excited to rally the community around this critical issue,” said Adams Sibley, Youth Coach for Team Trenton. “Our teens understand that in urban areas like Trenton, mental health carries the weight of stigma and shame. They’ve witnessed it firsthand in their schools and in their neighborhoods, often only after it was too late. “That’s why they’ve decided to change the narrative and are organizing the Embrace You! Community Festival, a one-day celebration of resilience and mental wellness.”

The New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), the statewide grant making program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded Millhill, and nine other organizations across the state, a NGCL three-year award this past year to harness the energy, knowledge, and idealism of young people ages 14-21 to prepare them to become future leaders. The Trenton NGCL Team, Team Trenton Standing Tall, consists of 15 young leaders from Trenton.

The NGCL were given a task to develop a civic engagement project this summer that addresses a public health issue of their choosing. The students discussed literacy, employment, and access to healthy foods. But when the topic turned to mental health, the discussion became personal. The choice of project became clear.

According to the 2016 New Jersey Youth Suicide Report, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10-14. The report also points to Mercer as one of three New Jersey counties with the highest rates of suicide attempts and self-inflicted injuries seen in emergency rooms. The CDC reports that suicide rates increased more than 25 percent since 1999. 

The NGCL program kicked off with a youth retreat in September of last year at YMCA Camp Ockanickon in Medford, N.J. Since then, the youth leaders met on a bi-weekly basis to learn from local experts about community health and to identify, develop, and implement a project to address an issue of their choosing. In July, the youth will work for four weeks with various non-profit and government agencies to address the mental health challenges in their homes, schools, and neighborhoods. The Embrace You! Community Mental Wellness Festival is a culmination of their work.

The festival is free and will include presentations by mental health experts, wellness workshops, activities for families, food, fun, music, and learning. In addition to funding from the New Jersey Health Initiatives, the statewide grantmaking program of Robert Wood Johnson and Millhill Child and Family Development; the festival is supported in part through NJM Insurance Group and The College of New Jersey. Additional sponsorships are available as well as volunteer and community partner opportunities. For more information visit www.millhillcenter.org/embrace or contact Michelle Thompkins at (609) 989-7333 x 131.