On Tuesday, June 8th, Neshamos Teen Edition launched its kickoff event. We hosted an evening to educate and empower teens about topics pertinent to their lives. The event took place in the Jewish Children’s Museum, a space built with the intention of being a center to support our community’s youth. The evening addressed eating disorders, suicide prevention and recovery from drug and alcohol addiction; issues that teens face as they begin to navigate the world and are exposed to various influences.
Despite the sudden downpour, over one hundred teens flocked into the museum eager to listen and learn. As the teens arrived and signed in they had fun posing and taking pictures in front of the Neshamos banner. Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, suicide prevention specialist, opened the night with a frank, information-based conversation about suicide prevention tools and techniques. He implored the audience to make a call if they ever feel alone or in crisis, not to hesitate to reach out for help and connection. Additionally, Rabbi Blumstein discussed how each person on this earth is unique and meaningful; he shared the message that “your life is worth living”.
Brielle shared her beautiful voice and songs with us as we ate our dinner. Devorah Kamman, APRN, facilitated a workshop on eating disorders, with the goal of empowering teens to build a culture of recovery where eating disorders do not thrive. Specifically, we learned about ways to identify eating disorders in their early stages, how to support someone who is struggling, the nuts and bolts of how eating disorders work and how they harm us, and practical strategies to reduce the prevalence of eating disorders within our community.
Elana Foreman shared her personal story of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol and her inspiring journey to sobriety. Elana provided tips for girls to recognize points at which to get help; she also impressed upon the audience the fact that alcohol and drug addiction can be life threatening. Her Mother, Leanne Foreman shared her perspective as a mother of a child struggling with addiction, as well. She introduced us to her organization she created after this experience. After each presentation girls lingered to ask questions and all facilitators shared their contact information if anyone had a concern or follow up question.
Girls were intrigued by the topics, a deep sense of curiosity pulsed through the room. Attendees were eager to ask questions and listened intently to the presentations. Many girls expressed a sense of relief that these topics were being spoken about openly in our community.
Upon reflecting on the evening, one volunteer noted, “When I was in high school I had so many friends who were struggling, I wish I had access to resources available to teens going through those challenges. I feel like this event honored my fifteen-year-old self who was desperate for somewhere to turn to.”
Another teen expressed gratitude for the conversation Neshamos has spearheaded: “Neshamos has given a judgment-free space to talk about taboo and sensitive topics. I grew a lot from the programming Neshamos offers.”
The Neshamos Team was excited about the feedback from this pilot event and looks forward to fulfilling requests from teens for additional workshops on mental health topics.