“People are afraid to talk about mental health issues and suicide. They’re uncomfortable.” Nabia Evans, a Notre Dame High School junior, shares her feelings on the stigma of mental health at a recent meeting of Trenton’s Next Generation Community Leaders. “You don’t know what’s going on inside a person behind the smile.”
A collaboration between the CELR Center and Millhill Child & Family Development, the Robert Wood Johnson-funded NGCL program provides a year of mentorship, training, and support to 15 Trenton teens as they become their community’s next generation of public health leaders. At the end of the year, the teens are tasked with designing a month-long project to address a topic of their choosing. Nabia and her teammates chose an issue of urgency and personal interest: suicide prevention.
The teens have recently met with a number of mental health professionals and advocates as they plan out their summer project. One such partner is Kimme Carlos, Executive Director of Urban Mental Health Alliance, a grassroots non-profit that “advocates for the mental health and wellness of urban families and communities.” In May, Ms. Carlos courageously shared vignettes from her own life, a journey marked by decades of addiction, depression, and anxiety, and more recently by many years of hope, resilience, and triumph.
The brain is an organ, just like the heart, Ms. Carlos explained, but we don’t take care of our minds like we take care of our bodies. In urban centers like Trenton, the very topic of mental health can be taboo.
Her story struck a chord with the teens, who have spent the last few months assembling a “brain trust” of experts and advocates ready to support the team’s efforts to promote mental wellness at their culminating event, the July 21st “Embrace You!” festival. The coalition to date includes the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition, Oaks Integrated Care, 2nd Floor, Catholic Charities, and others.
Trenton’s Next Generation Community Leaders look forward to changing the narrative on July 21st. “People want to try to handle things themselves,” notes HRTB 10th grader Amir Black, who wants his community to know, “It’s okay to ask for help.”
For more information about the Embrace You festival, visit https://www.