Shining a Light on Mental Illness

This past year, the SHINE Initiative, a group focused on bringing attention to mental health issues in children and young adults, reached a milestone when they launched their 35th Student Wellness Advisory Team in Central Massachusetts. 

These student-led teams work with SHINE staff and faculty advisors to promote mental wellness and shatter stigma around mental health issues at local middle and high schools.

“The teams do activities like holding poster competitions and putting up stickers with crisis hotlines in school bathrooms,” says SHINE Initiative Executive Director Fred Kaelin. “We consistently hear that they are having an impact because they normalize the conversation around mental health so students feel more comfortable seeking support.”

There’s no doubt that SHINE has come a long way since it was founded in 2003, when a group of employees at Fidelity Bank in Leominster came together to tackle a cause they felt received little attention and “SHINE a light on mental health.” Since then, SHINE has also expanded by sending speakers to a variety of mental health events and offering Youth Mental Health First Aid training.  

Throughout this time, the Community Foundation has been a proud supporter of SHINE by acting as their fiscal sponsor, providing financial oversight and enabling SHINE to accept charitable gifts, while also lending expertise in other ways.

“SHINE wouldn’t have been able to grow if we didn’t have this relationship with the Foundation,” says Kaelin. “People feel assured that when they give to SHINE, they do so under the umbrella of the Foundation, which gives them peace of mind.”

He adds, “The Foundation has also been a huge partner beyond providing financial stewardship. They have given us a lot of advice around strategy and growth, one of the benefits of working with a local foundation.”






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