Sib4Sib founder Jessica Goldberg, left, and board member Sammi Shapiro pose at the Sib4Sib bowling fundraiser March 3 at Wonderland Lanes in Commerce Township.

Sib4Sib founder Jessica Goldberg, left, and board member Sammi Shapiro pose at the Sib4Sib bowling fundraiser March 3 at Wonderland Lanes in Commerce Township.

Photo provided by Sib4Sib


Farmington Hills teen creates group for siblings of young people with mental illness

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published June 28, 2019

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FARMINGTON HILLS — When Jessica Goldberg, a soon-to-be senior from North Farmington High School, created the Sib4Sib program — which supports youth siblings of people who suffer with mental health — in November 2016, she did so simply out of her own necessity after not finding a single support group specifically for siblings.

What she wasn’t aware of was how rapidly her program would grow in popularity, size and resources.

Now three years into the program, Goldberg, alongside her trusted advisory board of directors and clinical facilitators, has raised $25,000 through fundraising and grants, added three new support groups — one each for young children ages 6-8 and 8-11, and one boys-only group — and has been able to provide her program free of charge to all participants since its inception.

On top of her previous successes, Golderg kept going, being recognized this year as one of 10 national recipients of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, earning an additional $36,000 for her program.

Goldberg will travel to San Francisco to be recognized and to receive her award at a luncheon Aug. 19.

“It really is an honor to be among the awardees for the Diller Teen Awards,” Goldberg said. “I cannot express my gratitude for the Diller Foundation for allowing us to continue our work with Sib4Sib, and we’re fortunate enough to be able to put all the award money back into the organization.”

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards are dedicated to the memory of San Francisco Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller, who wanted to recognize outstanding Jewish teens who demonstrate meaningful ways to give back to the community and do their part in repairing the world, said Erica Aren, a representative of the Diller Teen Awards.

“When Jessica realized there were no support groups for siblings of individuals with mental illness, she took action. The committee that selected awardees was very impressed by the way she initiated creating something that she felt should exist and could meet the needs of her peers. Her leadership, passion and creativity have created a real impact in the community,” Aren said.

While discussion and topics around mental health have garnered increased attention and seen a rise in mainstream media, still oftentimes the needs of siblings “can be lost in the dust and not addressed,” said Dr. Jackie Issner, a clinical psychologist who works with Goldberg and her Sib4Sib program.

“When we don’t focus attention on the needs of these siblings, we may neglect their innate needs, but they’re living in this stressful home context —  the parents and caregivers are under a lot of strain,” she continued. “The whole family is kind of in anticipation of a meltdown, and this can increase the risk for mental health difficulties in these siblings, like depression, anxiety, or even just difficulties adjusting to the next phases of life.”

Goldberg, who not only founded the group but actively participates in the teen support sessions, said she’s been able to see this impact firsthand through individual testimonials, parents’ and participants’ feedback, and a general uplifting of participants’ moods and emotions.

“Those moments when you really see them making progress and enjoying the group are kind of what I set out to do and what I originally hoped for, so it’s amazing to see what we’ve accomplished,” she said.

Issner also said the siblings involved in the program are able to walk away feeling like they have better communication and coping skills to handle the frustration, sadness, or other complex emotions they may be dealing with internally while living with a sibling with mental illness.

“The parents notice the siblings have this new language to express how they’re feeling, so they can communicate better with their parents to express what they need,” she said.

Goldberg said the $36,000, in addition to Sib4Sib’s other funding, will allow her to continue to offer the program free of charge to participants for many years. The award money is also helping Goldberg and her associates create a sustainability plan for when she departs for college after graduating in 2020.

Thinking ahead five years down the road and how Sib4Sib might continue to grow from here, Goldberg hopes her program is able to reach and service the majority of the sibling population in Southeast Michigan, if not statewide. She admits it would be amazing to see Sib4Sib go global, but knows the best she can do in the immediate future is to try to reach every single sibling she can.

“Our goal is really to help siblings, so as far as our funding and our abilities will take us, that’s where we’ll go,” Goldberg said. 

To learn more about the Sib4Sib program, visit sib4sib.org. To learn more about the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit dillerteenawards.org.

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