Hillsborough community strengthens its mental health resolve

BoroSAFE, Hillsborough’s community organization dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention, sponsored Hope for Tomorrow, its first virtual mental health fair.

The event organizers received an outpouring of support from local mental health professionals and agencies who presented workshops on Feb. 17, as well as from local business owners who donated gift cards used as prizes for a trivia game during the evening.

Although the past two Hope for Tomorrow events were in-person mental health fairs created and sponsored by the staff at Woods Road Elementary School, this year’s virtual format safely delivered much-needed information to families on many aspects of wellness during this extremely stressful period, according to information provided by Hillsborough Township.

Hillsborough was designated as a “Stigma-Free Community” by the Township Committee in October 2020 to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and create an environment where people can feel free to seek support without fear of being stigmatized, according to the statement.

The program began with a few words about Hillsborough’s commitment to mental health by Dr. Lisa Antunes, superintendent of schools, who recently underwent training as a mental health first aid responder, according to the statement.

BoroSAFE invited a keynote speaker from Minding Your Mind, an organization dedicated to ending stigma associated with mental health issues. Jordan has been sharing his story and advocating for mental health awareness for the last 8 years, across 32 different states and three different countries. He shared his powerful story of fighting depression, surviving a suicide attempt and finding recovery, according to the statement.

Following the keynote speaker, participants had the opportunity to choose two 20-minute breakout sessions from a selection of 16 topics, including self-care strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, the power of positive affirmations and the effects of nutritious food on the body and mind.

Other breakout sessions offered by local therapists focused on parenting issues such as “Improving communication between parents and kids” presented by Meredith Keller, and “Strategies for dealing with the impact of quarantine on the mental health of kids and teens” by John Mopper of Blueprint Mental Health.

Presentations on specific mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicidal behavior were offered by clinical social workers, including Guy Iacono of Minding Your Mind.

Families with younger children enjoyed a special children’s story about “Penelope the Powerful Parrot,” and learned about the positive impact of pets on wellness from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.

Students of all ages benefitted from a presentation by High Focus Centers on setting themselves up for success during hybrid learning.

Several breakout sessions addressed the needs of specific populations such as the LGBTQ community and sexual assault survivors.

NJ Hope and Healing, a grant program at Richard Hall Community Health Center, offered several sessions including an overview of their services, a group for women on resilience, and dealing with disaster and recovery.

The evening wrapped up with a trivia game with prizes that include gift cards to local businesses, including Bella Pizza, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Angelo’s Pizza, Heavenly Sweets, Impact Fitness, Newell Strength and more.

As expressed by Chad Berman, co-chair of BoroSAFE, “Born out of tragedy but eternally optimistic, Hope for Tomorrow is a heartfelt tribute to the importance of mental health and suicide prevention awareness. BoroSAFE is proud and humbled to continue the tradition of such an uplifting and powerful community event.”

For more information, email Anna Mahler at amahler@htps.us