September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs help dial 988 for Mental Health Crisis and Suicide Prevention. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) If the danger for self-harm seems immediate, call 911 right away. 
 
PREVENTION TIPS

  • Talk to others and share your problems with a trained therapist, friend or doctor
  • Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue dial 988 for more help.
  • Monitor what children see and hear about stressful events in their lives
  • Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings
  • Be on alert for any behavior changes
  • Reassure your child about their safety and well-being
  • Talk to other parents in the community and use them as support
  • Taking breaks from the news, social media can help calm down
  • Use self-care strategies such as healthy eating, getting proper sleep and exercise
  • Get involved in the community to prevent isolation
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco and substance use

Tips for Parents to Focus on Kids’ Mental Health as They Head Back to School

Sometimes new routines and new schedules can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This can be common when children and teenagers experience a change in their routines.

What are some ways to address these changes? 

For parents of small children, some ways to help your child’s back to school anxiety may include using a calm voice to reassure that their child is safe and protected. In addition, reinforcing routines can be helpful such as setting a realistic bedtime and selecting the next day’s clothes to wear. Arranging playdates with a familiar peer before school starts may help to lessen the anxiety.

For teens that are expressing anxiety about going back to school, listening to them can play an important role in supporting their mental and physical health. In addition, practicing breathing techniques can reduce stress. This can be taught by inhaling slowly through the nose, holding the breath for a count of four and then exhaling slowly.

If children or teens are experiencing ongoing anxiety, panic attacks or refusing to go to school, additional mental health support may be needed. A trained mental health professional can help your child or teen understand the root causes of the anxiety and help with coping skills.

Make sure you take your mental health and your child or teens mental health seriously.

by Elana Silverberg, MSW Intern

To speak with a member of our team, call 609-987-8100 or e-mail intake@jfcsonline.org.

Celebrating Older Americans Month in May – “Aging Their Way”

May is recognized as Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is “Age My Way” with a focus how seniors can plan to live safely and comfortably in their homes and communities for as long as possible. This is a core belief within the JFCS Senior Service program making us especially excited to share how we help our seniors age their own way. 

What is Older Americans Month? 

The Administration for Community Living leads the national observance of Older Americans Month (OAM). OAM was established by President Gerald Ford in 1976 to recognize the contributions of older adults across the country and raise awareness of the needs specific to the aging demographic. 

The 2022 theme for OAM is “Aging My Way” which provides an opportunity to highlight the many way older adults can safely remain in their communities in their golden years and the value they bring in being involved. 

How does JFCS help seniors age their own way? 

Aging-in-place support is one of the core focus areas of our senior service department. JFCS believes all individuals are entitled to their right to live their golden years as they choose. Our care managers help navigate the maze of senior care and assist seniors in making the best decisions for care, safety and comfort such as how to safely age in their homes, how to make informed decisions about assisted living, in-home care and plan for long-term medical, financial, and legal situations. Our team of geriatric care managers are here to serve as advocates for our clients, ensuring their needs are heard by family, caregivers, friends, doctors and professionals. 

Beyond care management, JFCS even offers specific senior nutrition programs to ensure that older adults have access to nutritious food on a regular basis, further enhancing their quality of life in their later years. 

What our seniors say is “aging their way”…

Making connections to help seniors who feel isolated… 

The JFCS Friendly Caller & Visitor Program matches volunteers and seniors who feel more isolated or vulnerable, whether due to being homebound, living alone, or other circumstances. When COVID-19 forced many more seniors into isolation for their health & safety, JFCS continued this program matching more volunteers with more seniors.  

Two volunteers shared their perspective on what these regular connections have meant to them, and the senior they connect with. 

Volunteer Michael says… 

I’ve fostered a deep, meaningful, and humorous relationship through my friendly, weekly calls with Ms. Jane. Our calls are centered around positivity, compassion, and encouragement, whether it be a new hobby or to explore a new museum. This has greatly abated the fear of isolation and promoted social connection.  

Ms. Jane looks forward to our weekly calls, to the point where the excitement and enthusiasm is palpable; an experience that is beyond rewarding. 

Volunteer Judith says… 

I continue to speak with Ruth weekly. Our conversations have no topic; we speak as two friends about family, books, happenings in our lives, and reminiscences. She picks the topics, sets the tone and pace. I follow her direction. 

I know Ruth feels lonely, and our talks provide relief each week. I can tell that she looks forward to and enjoys our conversations, for she says so repeatedly and thanks me each week. 

*all names changed for confidentiality

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, We’re Together for Mental Health 

Each year, May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month to shine a light on the importance of mental health care – something we have all recognized over the past two difficult years. This year’s theme is “Together for Mental Health.” 

What does it mean to be together for mental health? 

At JFCS, we are united in the belief that mental health care has a place in all programs and services; and, with counseling being one of our core programs, our agency has a responsibility to promote mental healthcare to the community, provide resources, and join in the push to end the stigma surrounding mental healthcare and mental illness. 

In February, we shared a video that highlighted our specific mental health services – the counseling department as well as support groups. Yet we are tuned into the emotional and psychological needs of all we serve, from the families using our food pantry, to the seniors receiving geriatric care management, to the youth participating in our programs. 

Counseling Department

Is it helpful to have internal resources to refer your client, for more well-rounded mental health support?

Having internal access to agency resources to refer to clients, such as the food pantry, is an invaluable resource to offer to clients due to food insecurity rates that have significantly increased for many families due to the pandemic. Clients have provided great feedback and a sense of gratitude for having the ability to access nutritious foods in a dignified manner that normalizes the community’s need for the use of an agency food pantry.

Furthermore, being a part of agency that offers group workshops and marital counseling allows clients to gain access to these services without having to contact an outside agency and having to experience long waitlists elsewhere. Having accessibility for the aforementioned agency resources, allows me to meet client needs in an effortless manner and reduced time spent on case management services. 

~Arlene Munoz, LSW Bilingual Social Worker

It is helpful because once the client has built trust and rapport with their social worker, they will be comfortable utilizing another reputable JFCS service. Having the ability to access identified resources within the Agency removes barriers when coordinating services. 

~Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services

  

How important is mental health sensitivity in your program? 

Each client reacts to situations in their own unique way. Our social workers have the required sensitivity and understanding to support a client with diverse interventions that best suit their needs.

~Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services

Food Programs

How does mental health play a role in your program?

We know that food insecurity = stress and anxiety. Imagine not having enough food for you or your family? The JFCS Mobile Food Pantry truck and our onsite pantry offers a bit of mental health support by providing much needed nourishment – for the body and the soul.

~Beth Englezos, Manager of Hunger Prevention

Senior Services

How important is mental health sensitivity in your program?

Being aware of stressors and validating feelings is critical. Clients need to feel “heard” and not be embarrassed or judged when expressing feelings or describing circumstances that are challenging.

~Beth Hammer, LCSW Geriatric Care Manager

Is it helpful to have internal resources to refer your client, for more well-rounded mental health support?

It is essential to have both internal and external referral sources to give to clients. Knowing there are various agency and community resources available can ensure that individuals receive the appropriate assistance they may require.

~Beverly Mishkin, LCSW Director of Senior Services

Teen Programs

How does mental health play a role in your program?

Gesher LeKesher benefits the Mental Health of our Madrichim in a number of ways. We introduce many useful resources including JFCS and the Crisis Text Line if they or someone they know is struggling with Mental Health. Our teen leaders also lead a unit to the Talmidim on the topic of selfcare. Program participants also roleplay and discuss red flag mental health behaviors and ways to respond when a person you know is struggling with mental health.

~Celeste Albert, LCSW Coordinator of Teen Programs

Volunteering

What role does mental health sensitivity play in your program?

In order to be most effective, agency volunteers need to communicate with clients with an awareness and understanding that the client may be suffering from mental or emotional issues.  

How does your program benefit clients’ mental health?

From delivering food to making check-in phone calls, every service that JFCS volunteers offer serves to improve the mental health of the client. They are also trained to note any changes or issues that may be of concern and immediately report back to the appropriate JFCS team member.

How does your program benefit volunteers’ mental health?

Research has repeatedly shown tremendous benefits to volunteers who spend time helping others. Time after time, JFCS volunteers arrive with positive energy and a willingness to do whatever is needed. Helping others surely proves to help oneself.

~Eden Aaronson, Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Programs

What can you do personally to rally behind the call for “Together for Mental Health”? 

Visit the NAMI Mental Health Awareness Month Resource page to learn more. Help advocate for a better mental health care system, share your story to help inspire others and defeat the stigma around mental health care and mental illness, and learn more about mental health using their education resources. 

Teen Philanthropists Address the Needs of Local, National and International Communities

The Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF) celebrated its 19th year at its annual Check Presentation Ceremony which was held online on February 27th.  More than $36,000 was distributed to 21 non-profit organizations by 121 teens representing 12 Synagogues and 29 area schools.

JCYF is a project of JFCS of Greater Mercer County and the Ricky and Andrew J. Shechtel Philanthropic Fund.  The program has disbursed $967,043 since its inception 19 years ago.

Highlights from the evening included a live trivia quiz about this year’s program.  The quiz winner designated one of the JCYF recipient agencies as the winner of an additional grant.  The Annual Alumni Award was presented to Robbinsville alumna Mandi Lichtenstein, class of 2020, for her outstanding work at Elon University.   Mandi designated Mazon – A Jewish Response to Hunger as the recipient of her $360 award prize.  Jonah Adler of Lawrenceville spoke about how wisdom, understanding and divine inspiration impact the important decisions we make.

This year, teens from all over Mercer and Bucks counties met to discuss ways to make a difference in local, national and international communities.  They enjoyed meeting again in person and on Zoom where they were exposed to a broader range of agencies and resources.  One participant commented that a highlight for them this year was “Being together in person again with my friends working on helping our Jewish community.”  Agency representatives from all over the world were interviewed and explained how their projects could help those in need.  Part of this year’s curriculum included Amplify Our Impact 2021, which provided an opportunity to increase giving by reaching out to family, friends and community contacts.  One participant said “I enjoyed reaching out to my family members and talking to them about JCYF and how it supports great causes.”

Harrison Fehn, class of 2022, of Bordentown explained “[JCYF’s] value is immeasurable on Jewish youth as it teaches us, from a young age, how to evaluate grants, allocate funds, and most important of all, collaborate.  JCYF is an organization that I would deem necessary for any aspiring Jewish leader to partake in before they have graduated.”

Sophie Berman, a member of the JCYF Senior Class and Hamilton resident mentioned, “I developed a passion for helping others and giving to those in need. JCYF taught me the importance of philanthropy and my Jewish identity. I have learned copious amounts of leadership skills that will aid me as I move into the next chapter of my life.”

Scott Nahoum, West Windsor resident and member of the graduating class said “JCYF strengthened my commitment to giving while maintaining my Jewish identity. I now have a passion for social justice and engaging volunteers to fight poverty in the Jewish community and beyond.”

For more information, contact Celeste Albert, Coordinator of Teen Programs at JFCS of Greater Mercer County, at 609-987-8100 x210 or celestea@jfcsonline.org, or visit the JCYF Web Page.

See this story on CentralJersey.com.

Watch our full VIRTUAL Check Ceremony, held on Sunday, February 27, 2022.

Congratulations to 2022 JCYF Distinguished Alumni Award Winner, Mandi Lichtenstein

JFCS 2nd Virtual Annual Fundraiser Welcomes over 500 guests, raises $211,000

On February 24, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) held their 2nd virtual annual fundraiser. The event, Trivia Night with JFCS, welcomed 525 guests to participate in a team trivia competition via Zoom. Bristol Myers Squibb was honored for their dedication to the mission of JFCS, and agency programs were highlighted with a special focus on mental health services.

“Last year, with our first virtual event, we were very impressed with the turnout,” said Michelle Napell, JFCS Executive Director. “We never could have imagined we’d welcome over 500 guests at our 2nd virtual event. The accessibility has proven a big draw to our local community members.”

The event, JFCS’ single largest annual fundraiser and significant source of unrestricted funds, raised over $211,000 through sponsorships, tickets sales and a live Text-to-Give appeal during the event. Two private donors agreed to match the first $10,000 raised for Text-to-Give; along with donations from guests, the total amount raised for the live appeal was $27,522.

“In recent years, we have continued to increase our Text-to-Give goals. With over 500 guests this year, we knew we could raise significant funds,” says Napell. “It was humbling to see the level of support, especially from so many guests who were unfamiliar with our agency until that night. The benefit of the virtual event was being able to welcome our community members’ friends and family from across the country.”

Guests were able to join from anywhere and participants tuned in from across New Jersey as well as across the country, from California, to Florida, to Massachusetts and more. Attendees were able to create their own teams which allowed family and friends to connect whether they gathered together in person or over Zoom from different locations.

“While we had hoped this year’s event might bring us all together, it was amazing to see so many people supporting JFCS. It was fun to see so many Zoom rooms filled with lots of people who were able to be together, I was able to gather with 25 friends at our local synagogue as we broke into multiple teams to compete in the trivia event,” added Scott Sussman, JFCS Board Vice President and Event Chair.

Funds raised from the event will support all agency programs, several of which have grown with demand in the past two challenging years. JFCS maintains a counseling department which is seeing rising demand as everyone navigates the next stage of the pandemic, particularly youth who are experiencing ongoing emotional stress.

Additionally, JFCS maintains several food relief programs including an on-site food pantry, available 5 days/week, two Mobile Food Pantry vehicles that bring the pantry directly into areas of greater Mercer County with the greatest obstacles to accessing available resources, as well as meal and grocery delivery to homebound seniors.

JFCS also boasts a senior service department which provides geriatric care management available to the broader community. Seniors have continued to rely on the support of the JFCS senior service team throughout the past year for resources, information, and the comfort and understanding of our staff.

“Our agency has successfully navigated the past two of challenges thanks to the generosity of individual and corporate supporters; however, we have learned that to be prepared for anything, our agency needs to remain adaptable to any challenge, and to do so, we will continue to rely on the incredible support of this community. The success of this event helps us continue to move forward, together,” said Napell.

See a full recap on our event website!

JFCS thanks all event sponsors including Champion Sponsors Abrams Foundation/Nati Kushner; Bristol Myers Squibb, Personal Home Care of New Jersey, Roundview Capital, Dina & Michael Shaw, Elaine & Barry Sussman, and Troutman Pepper; Patron Sponsors Access Property Management, Matt & Holli Elias, Homewatch Caregivers, JZA+D, Lennar, Mercer Bucks Pickleball Club, and the Schwalbe Family; Partner Sponsors; Partner Sponsors The Gershen Group LLC, Lowenstein Sandler LLP, Newman Paperboard, NJM Insurance, and Stark & Stark; and Supporter Sposnors Dundon Advisers LLC, Faegre Drinker, First Bank, the Gordon Family, Hill Wallack LLP, Jill & Gregg Jaclin, Mercadien, Northfield Bank, Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel, Sheryl & Joseph Punia, Heidi & Marc Shegoski, Szaferman Lakind, Stacey Wasserman & Ian Zimmerman and Audrey & Marc Wisotsky.

Resources for Supporting Ukraine & Coping with Crisis

How to Support

The Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks established a Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund to provide critical assistance to more than 200,000 Jews in Ukraine. Thank you to those who have already joined this effort. Please support the most vulnerable.

CLICK TO DONATE

The emergency campaign dollars will go to American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) to support on-the-ground humanitarian effort.

How to  Talk to About Crisis and Cope

The war in Ukraine has triggered strong emotions for many of us. If you are feeling anger, fear, anxiety, depression, or helplessness, you are not alone. For many, it is the first time watching such horrors unfold in their lifetime. For some, these images and videos can be triggers from past trauma.

It is in our physiological nature as human beings to feel some amount of empathy and sorrow for others dealing with a traumatic event. Even though we’re not physically present, we still feel the mental health effects of what’s going on. We may not be able to diminish these emotions, but there are ways to make them more manageable.

How to cope will depend entirely on what works best for you. Below are some suggestions that you may find helpful:

  • Limit your time watching/listening to the news.  Repeated exposure to this kind of content can be distressing or numbing. 
  • Relieve some of that anxiety and tension by gently moving your body. This could mean going for a walk, doing some light stretching, taking an online yoga class, or whatever it is that helps you feel good.
  • Self-compassion. Ask yourself: What are you feeling, both emotionally and physically? This may include a quick head-to-toe body scan. Try using words to identify and name these feelings, like “I​’m feeling helpless, and it feels like there is a pit in my stomach.” Try your best to just witness these feelings rather than talking yourself out of them or trying to change them.
  • Coloring can relax the fear center of your brain, the amygdala. It induces the same state as meditating by reducing the thoughts of a restless mind. This generates mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest.

Additional Resources on how to talk about the crisis and cope:

As always, if you feel you are withdrawing from others, or feeling intense emotions that are affecting daily functioning, please reach out to talk to one of our professional staff at JFCS​ by calling 609-987-8100.