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Jenna Bush Hager Will Speak at Mental Health Awareness Program in West Hartford

Jenna Bush Hager will be the featured speaker at a community conversation about mental health, sponsored by JFS and Tara's Closet at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford. Submitted photo

To mark Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish Family Services and Tara’s Closet are hosting a community-wide conversation at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, featuring special guest speaker Jenna Bush Hager.


To mark 2017 Mental Health Awareness Month, Jewish Family Services (JFS) and Tara’s Closet present Embracing Possibility for Mental Health Awareness: A Conversation About Compassion & Education, with special guest best-selling author and NBC’s Today contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager.

The evening begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 11, on the campus of Kingswood Oxford School, 170 Kingswood Rd. in West Hartford, CT. Reservations are recommended and available online at jfshartford.org/tickets.

A panel of renowned experts and local community members will join the discussion aimed at tearing down misconceptions surrounding mental illness: Hartford Hospital/Institute of Living Assistant Medical Director Dr. Evan Fox, local author Karin Stahl, and Huffington Post contributor/blogger Risa Sugarman will share stories about what life with a mental illness feels like to someone going through it, the impact of mental illness on loved ones and families, and how to recognize the symptoms as well as where to find help.

Hager will deliver her positive message of making a difference: how the power of compassion, community support and educational opportunities changes lives.

“May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and I am proud to be participating in this event organized by Jewish Family Services and Tara’s Closet, emphasizing our commitment to ridding our society of the stigma associated with mental illness and encouraging those living with mental illness to embrace possibility. I look forward to speaking in Hartford and beginning the conversation of mental health awareness. It is through the power of compassion, community support and educational opportunities that we can elevate the conversation about mental health, and show our commitment to ensure those who need help have access to the support, acceptance, and resources they deserve,” said Hager.

“Mental health is as important as physical health and deserves the same level of attention and support. We must change the perception of mental illness and create transparency, acceptance and understanding. This conversation is a very important step in the process of education and awareness,” said JFS Executive Director Anne Danaher. “Jewish Family Services is fortunate to work with courageous individuals like Barbara Roth, founder of Tara’s Closet, as well as Risa Sugarman and Karin Stahl who will speak up to de-stigmatize mental illness at an Inaugural Mental Health Event for the Greater Hartford community,” she added.

Tara’s Closet – A local initiative bringing to light the stigma of mental illness

Plans for a community-wide conversation about mental illness began in the spring of 2016 with the launch of Tara’s Closet, a new Jewish Family Services (JFS) initiative inspired by a young woman who lost her battle with bi-polar disorder. Tara’s Closet aims to bring mental illness out of the shadows and help those coping with it to seek treatment.

Tara Savin grew up in West Hartford and attended the Kingswood Oxford School, where she co-edited the yearbook and was voted “Best Dressed.” She graduated summa cum laude from Boston University with a BA in International Studies and a minor in Women’s Studies, and stayed on to earn a master’s degree in Mass Communications. After working at Town & Country Magazine in Manhattan, she completed her Master of Social Work degree at Fordham University and returned to Hartford in 2010 for an internship with Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford (JFS). That year, at age 38, Tara Savin lost the battle.

Tara’s mother, Barbara Roth, founded Tara’s Closet with the support of a few loyal friends to bring to light the stigma of mental illness.

Why Ending the Silence Matters

  • One in five kids experiences a mental health condition; only 20 percent of them actually get help
  • About 50 percent of students ages 14+ with a mental health condition will drop out of school
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds
  • The earlier the better: early identification and intervention provides better outcomes

Common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (“lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Thinking about suicide Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)
  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

“Through JFS and Tara’s Closet, we hope to stop the stigma of mental illness and begin to influence a change in perception,” explained Roth. “Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, race, religion, socioeconomic and demographic profiles.”

About Jewish Family Services

In partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Jewish Foundation of Greater Hartford, the JFS mission is to enhance and strengthen quality of life through the Jewish tradition of caring and compassion. JFS Counseling, Education and Community Support programs serve the Jewish community AND the community at large. To learn more about Jewish Family Services, visit jfshartford.org.

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