New Jersey Health Initiatives - A Better State of Health
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program
Mental Wellness a Priority for Trenton Teens

“People are afraid to talk about mental health issues and suicide. They’re uncomfortable.” Nabia Evans, a Notre Dame High School junior, said. She was sharing 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.”

Earlier this month, Nabia and her fellow Next Generation Community Leaders team members met with 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. 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.

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 in Trenton throughout July. 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.

In urban centers like Trenton, the very topic of mental health can be taboo.

“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.

Trenton’s Next Generation Community Leaders look forward to changing that narrative. “People want to try to handle things themselves,” notes Trenton Central High School Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism, and Business program sophomore Amir Black, who wants his community to know, “It’s okay to ask for help.”

Follow the Trenton Next Generation Community Leaders’ progress through their StandingTALL Facebook page. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders teams through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.

The Grantee Blog publishes a different NJHI-supported community’s update every week. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Project
Author
Adams Sibley
Organization
Center for Community Engaged Learning & Research