The Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education was established in 2002 in Naomi’s memory. With the proceeds of Naomi’s estate and contributions from family and friends, the institute works to prevent others from suffering as she did. Since its inception, the institute has aimed at creating a more inclusive community. Its goal is to provide support to individuals and families struggling with a broad range of mental health issues, and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Thus, the institute’s income is used to promote educational programs and to support organizations engaged in mental illness research, education, self-help, anti-discrimination, and advocacy.
Every year, the institute holds a community mental health conference. Our 2019 conference; Integrating Mental and Physical Health, drew more than 300 participants. The conference set out to explore the strong connection between physical and mental health. This topic directly aligns with the institute’s dedication of reducing stigma related to mental illness and provide education, resources, and hope to those who struggle with mental illness, and to those who support them.
Another way that the institute connected with the community this year was by partnering with other organizations that promote educational programs. This year, in partnership with Community Builders, we provided monthly educational/support groups to seniors in both the Westside and Southside of Chicago. We also designed and delivered a four-part workshop series that helped Evanston teens strengthen their mental health skills, as part of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Additionally, the institute has conducted several Mental Health First Aid trainings, which educates community members on how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.
According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-19 . The suicide rate for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was the highest recorded rate ever (Heron, 2019). Thus, this year the institute partnered with the Institute for Adolescent Suicide Prevention to deliver a workshop that discussed trends in adolescent suicide and addressed warnings signs, as well as risk and protective factors. Participants gained knowledge about the unique needs of specific populations and learned of available suicide risk screening and assessment tools.
The Covid-19 crisis has created many new challenges for daily living. These challenges are causing great stress and anxiety, which can significantly contribute to serious health problems. The United Nations has already highlighted a need for an increase in mental health support due to the epidemic (UN, 2020). Thus, the institute has been delivering a workshop to the community; Cultivating Emotional Wellness Amidst Covid-19. This workshop explored some of the particular challenges related to Covid-19; including isolation and decreased support systems, a sense of powerlessness/loss of control/feelings of uncertainty, fear about our health/death, and grief. This workshop provides participants with specific interventions on how to cope with the overwhelming stress and unpredictably that this crisis has created. Additionally, ways in which participants can better manage their daily lives are also explored. Participants also have the opportunity to create a personalized 3-step wellness plan to assist in cultivating emotional wellness.