It’s estimated that 33% of Jewish households in Greater Philadelphia have at least one person who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, according to “Community Portrait: A 2019 Jewish Population Study of Greater Philadelphia.”
And for more than 30 years, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia has worked to spread suicide awareness and connect people with needed services.
Now, through a recent undisclosed grant from Lyn and Roy Neff, JFCS will be able to expand its work in spreading suicide prevention awareness beyond the boundaries of Philadelphia.
“We are tremendously grateful to the Neffs for having the confidence in JFCS to see this through. They’ve done an unbelievable thing in funding this,” JFCS President and CEO Paula Goldstein said.
JFCS has worked with Philadelphia schools, with funding provided by the Office of Addiction Services, to send prevention specialists to meet with students and discuss drug and alcohol addiction, gambling prevention, bullying, cyberbullying and suicide prevention with an evidence-based curriculum. The new grant allows JFCS to send a specialist specifically focusing on suicide prevention to meet with organizations (at their request) throughout the five-county area.
“Our funding only enables us to do this only in Philadelphia … and suicide is affecting the full Greater Philadelphia community,” Goldstein said. The expansion is “an opportunity for us to reach out to synagogues, youth groups, day schools, churches, any interfaith-based group to say we have prevention specialists, beyond what we do in the Philadelphia schools, who can help work with people around lowering the impact of mental illness, lowering the stigma with it and addressing suicide directly.”
The Neffs have supported the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and other area Jewish groups for nearly 30 years. Their grant to JFCS will allow its program to bring on a clinical therapist who can help treat those in need.
David Rosenberg, a senior vice president of programs and strategy who oversees the program, discussed the new hires’ added value.
“We’re looking at tackling it from a variety of ways so that there’s the prevention piece, there’s the therapy and then there’s the community engagement and communication. We feel by addressing the issue and providing the program in these different ways, that we’ll really be able to offer a comprehensive array of suicide education and awareness for the community,” Rosenberg said. “If you are somebody who is feeling depressed or having these suicidal thoughts, feel like they maybe are hurting themselves, then they should call Jewish Family and Children’s Service.”
The grant also provides funding for a new outreach coordinator.
“(The Neffs) didn’t want to just give dollars and boom, start going to the Greater Philadelphia area,” Goldstein said. “They wanted us to have an outreach coordinator who can really go out and have conversations with people in the community about their needs.”
In addition, the grant will fund a community-wide event later this year with a guest speaker to launch the program.
“This is such a pervasive issue now that it requires us to respond in a very focused, more expanded way,” said Pia Eisenberg, senior vice president of community engagement. “It’s really important that we do something sort of from a broad base, so that people who aren’t necessarily wanting to identify themselves individually can just go and hear and learn more.”
For those looking to learn more about this JFCS program and to take advantage of its services, call 1-866-JFCS(NOW).