Whitfield: MYLIFE changing lives one young adult at a time - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Whitfield: MYLIFE changing lives one young adult at a time

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• Mary Jo Whitfield, MSW, is the vice president of behavioral health for Jewish Family &Children’s Servicea non-profit, non-sectarian organization that strengthens the community by providing quality behavioral health and social services to children, families and adults of all ages and faiths throughout Maricopa County, in accordance with a Jewish value system that cares about all humanity.

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 9:02 am | Updated: 7:23 pm, Fri Mar 29, 2013.

Being a young person is never easy. Add to that the challenge of a mental illness and life’s hurdles can become skyscrapers.

Understanding this challenge, Jewish Family & Children’s Service partnered with Magellan Health Services to launch MYLIFE — Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment. This free youth leadership program brings together youth in the community with similar challenges to support one another and learn leadership and advocacy skills that help them to grow as a person, and support their recovery journey.

The MYLIFE youth hold regular meetings, local and national workshops, presentations and hip-hop performances to help empower youth and give them a voice to improve programs and services in their communities.

MYLIFE’s biggest event of the year, MYFEST, is coming up Sunday, March 24 at Tempe Beach Park. This annual celebration celebrates recovery and this year’s event focuses on preventing suicide and bullying.

Additionally, MYLIFE advises behavioral health professionals, community stakeholders and government officials on the issues affecting child/adolescent and young adult programs and services, and providing outreach to help reduce the stigma associated with being a young person living with a mental illness and/or substance abuse issues.

MYLIFE members provide support for their peers; develop critical skills in leadership, mentoring and mental health resiliency; act as advisors to local officials to help improve services and systems that serve youth; and provide a much-needed voice in the community to combatthe stigma associated with behavioral health issues. MY LIFE has been the catalyst for changes that have been very beneficial to programs and systems that serve youth. Their advocacy has brought about changes to improve care for youth in Arizona and across the nation.

Moreover, MYLIFE Arizona youth have been instrumental in starting four additional groups in southeastern Pennsylvania and two groups in Louisiana, and engaging more than 400 youth nationally in MYLIFE.

JFCS is honored to work with Magellan on this important and life-changing program and it’s been a pleasure to watch the program change one youth’s life at a time.

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