The Youth Mental Health Project (YMHP) is a newly formed 501(C)(3) mental health organization focusing on children and young adults. Its founders, Wendy Ward and Randi Silverman, are passionate about getting the conversation started in our communities. “We don’t think of mental illness as a childhood illness,” says Silverman. “Yet, one in five have a diagnosable mental health condition, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults,” Silverman adds. This is, no doubt, a difficult topic to broach, but YMHP plans on bringing that message to the forefront through a multi-pronged approach.
The organization stemmed, in part, from the personal family struggle of Randi Silverman when her son, Eli Silverman,* began exhibiting symptoms of a mental health disorder at a young age. “It took seven years for a diagnosis,” says Silverman. The family’s story is bravely illustrated in a film, No Letting Go, which won 20 international awards, including the Reading Film Festival 2015 People’s Choice Award and the Southampton International Film Festival 2015 Feature Screenplay Award.
YMHP is focused on changing the narrative to ignite a grassroots dialogue. Through various mediums, they seek to inform and educate community stakeholders, parents, and others about the importance of children’s mental health nationwide. Promoting mental health literacy programs is one avenue. YMHP believes early intervention and prevention is key in lowering the incidence and severity of mental illness.
Dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness is also important. Silverman is a breast cancer survivor. “Remember when the ‘C’ word was a taboo topic? No one talked about it,” says Silverman. Today, over the years, strides have been made and people came forward, raised money and, now, cancer is no longer a shameful diagnosis. “I would like to see the same happen for mental health issues,” says Silverman.
To find out more about YMHP and their important mission, please visit the various links below.
By Janine Crowley Haynes, Chappaqua resident and author of My Kind of Crazy: Living in a Bipolar World
Eli Silverman Photography: www.espicture.com