Lifestyle Reader Contributed

West Hartford-Based JFS and Tara’s Closet Launch Mental Health Community Conversation Series

New virtual series aimed to break the stigma of mental health launches.


Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford (JFS) and Tara’s Closet have launched a new virtual series, Tara’s Talks Mental Health Community Conversations, directed at decreasing the stigma around mental health struggles.  

On May 13, 2021, Tara’s Closet and Jewish Family Services presented an unforgettable evening which shined a spotlight on mental health, with a live virtual and intimate conversation with model, actress, and award-winning author, Brooke Shields.  The event, hosted by NBC Connecticut’s Mike Hydeck, aimed to change perception around mental health and remind each of us, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”  

Dr. Evan Fox from Hartford Healthcare’s Institute of Living announced the new series during the live event. “This series includes conversations with community members, professionals (including myself), and individuals sharing their stories about mental health …” said Fox in a prerecorded message. “The goal of this series is to bring much needed awareness to these important issues and decrease the stigma around mental health.”

Tara’s Talks Mental Health Community Conversations will address a wide range of topics, including the social isolation experienced by people with disabilities, teen mental health during the pandemic, and youth suicide prevention. The first episode is an in-depth conversation about living with bipolar disorder with mother-daughter authors Sonja Wasden, Rachael Siddoway, and JFS clinician Heidi Hart.  

Wasden and Siddoway wrote a book about Sonja’s struggles with bipolar disorder, “An Impossible Life: The Inspiring True Story of a Woman’s Struggle from Within.” During her conversation with Hanley, Sonja talked openly and frankly about her experience with mental health. 

“… I was married to the hospital CEO had three beautiful children lived in a beautiful home attending charity events appearing to have the ideal life,” Wasden said. “But really I was walking on broken glass. I hid my mental illness, for over 20 years, because of the stigma. I attempted suicide in 2015 and the doctors saved me.” 

Siddoway shared her experience with her mother’s mental health journey. “… I wrote this book alongside my mom and having that journey together was super healing for me, because, at 16, I found my mom’s suicide note.” Siddoway explained. “… I took it really personal. I was furious at her, I thought it was selfish that her wanting to leave because she was in pain would put us in pain … but through writing this book with her, I realized it wasn’t personal. It wasn’t that she wanted to leave me or my family. It’s that she wanted to leave the pain she was in, and I have gotten a greater understanding of what that pain looked like.” 

When asked about what she wants people to take away from her story, Wasden said, “… I just want you to know that there’s a life for you and, yes, there might be some pain or difficulty, but when you’re in crisis and it’s heavy and it’s just, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ … you will get through it. You won’t always feel that way, so I just want to say there is hope.”

To watch the first episode and to learn more about the series, visit jfshartford.org/TaraTalks.


Tara’s Closet, a program of Jewish Family Services, brings mental illness into the open. Inspired by a young woman who lost her life to bi-polar disorder, Tara’s Closet provides free clothes to those in need as it helps those coping with mental illness. 


Jewish Family Services enhances and strengthens quality of life through the Jewish tradition of caring and compassion. We do this work by providing counseling, education, and community support to help people of all religions advance along the path toward emotional well-being, self-reliance, more positive relationships, and a renewed sense of possibility.  

JFS is located at 333 Bloomfield Avenue, Suite A, West Hartford, CT 06117 but is closed to the public at this time, due to the pandemic. We are available weekdays by phone 860-236-192 and email [email protected] 

For more information about JFS programs, staff, volunteer opportunities, and online donations, please visit our website at https://jfshartford.org/ 

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1 Comment

  • —-JewishFamilyServices of Greater Hartford (JFS) and Tara’s Closet have launched a new virtual series, Tara’s Talks Mental Health Community Conversations, directed at decreasing the stigma around mental health struggles.

    We seem wholly intent on finding someone or something to direct a “stigma” at, but I find it wholly contradictory that, with the blatant history of WW II behind us anyone coud be directing a stigma.

    Harold A Maio

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