Catholic Charities worker inspires client’s sister to pursue social work

Meet Emma Daceus, a social work student and intern for one of Catholic Charities’ residences. Emma’s older brother, who is now 30, was once part of the Strong Futures program for young men who are aging out of the child welfare system or who are homeless.

Years later, Emma and her brother still remember the kindness of Kathy Elias, who is the Division Director of Children and Family Services at Catholic Charities.

It just goes to show how caring for someone today can impact so much more than we think!

Godspeed on your studies, Emma. Thank you for stepping up to be somebody else’s hero in the future.

Mental Health Association in New Jersey

What does this bell mean to those who live with mental illness?

First, it is a reminder of how far the community has come advocating for the 42 million Americans who live with mental illness. Also, it’s a profound symbol of hope. 

The Mental Health Bell

During the early days of mental health therapy, people with mental illnesses were frequently imprisoned in asylums with iron chains and shackles around their ankles and wrists. This harsh practice was eventually put to an end as a result of improved understanding and therapies.

Mental Health America sent out a request for discarded chains and shackles to asylums around the country in the early 1950s. On April 13, 1956, at the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, MD, Mental Health America melted down these inhumane bindings and recast them into a sign of hope: the Mental Health Bell.

The 300-pound Bell, which is now the symbol of Mental Health America and its affiliates, serves as a striking reminder that people with mental illnesses are still bound by invisible shackles of misunderstanding and discrimination. The Mental Health Bell is ringing today, signaling hope for better mental health and victory over mental diseases.

National mental health leaders and other notable individuals have rung the Bell over the years to signal continuous success in the fight against mental diseases.

Mission of MHANJ 

Mental Health Association in New Jersey (MHANJ) strives for children and adults to achieve victory over mental health and substance use disorders through advocacy, education, training, and services. The organization serves as a hub for mental health services of all varieties. 

Specifically, MHANJ:

  • Promotes good mental health
  • Reduces barriers that prevent people from seeking or offering help
  • Builds a stronger base of support and network of services for people with mental health challenges

For many, this begins with MHANJ’s accessible, online screening found on their website.

History of MHANJ

MHANJ has a rich history of improving the lives of people with mental health and substance use disorders. This statewide non-profit organization, which recently celebrated 75 years of service, breaks down stigma and other barriers that prevent people from seeking treatment. It builds a strong base of support and network of services for people coping with behavioral health issues and their family members.

A consistent leader in advocacy and policy, they protect the rights of individuals and their family members, from all walks of life, cultures, and socioeconomic levels.

Building the Community   

MHANJ’s has developed an active community of advocacy and resources within their social media channels. The organization offers multiple virtual gatherings every week, which attract a wide range of audiences. For example:

  • Women of Color Discussion Group focuses on issues, coping strategies, & resources specifically relevant to Women of Color. 
  • Coping with Culture is an open group devoted to discussing the complexities of multicultural society–they focus on emotional wellbeing, mental health challenges, and other intersections of identity such as sexuality, gender, and more.
  • Parenting discussion and support group connects parents with resources to navigate the current health crisis.
  • Let’s dance! is a virtual dance party aimed at releasing emotions and feelings that impact physical wellbeing.
  • Thankful Tuesdays are hosted by Deacon Laverne S. Williams and highlights relevant topics and insightful guest speakers.

MHANJ Initiatives

The organization oversees numerous initiatives, including — but not limited to — the ones listed here:

Additionally, for the opioid crisis, the organization offers a secure hotline that connects addicts with licensed counselors. 

Learn more about MHANJ’s advocacy, education, training, and services on the Mental Health Association in New Jersey website. 

Bring Hope to a Child’s Life Today

When there is discord at home, it is the children who suffer the most.

Without a professional to help them process their distress, kids can grow up expressing those negative feelings in unhealthy ways.

Our partners help bring hope to a child’s life by donating to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, which partners with some of New Jersey’s best service providers for child mental health and counseling.

Learn more at

How Greater Newark Holiday Fund Help Eradicate Poverty in New Jersey

Today, you can stream thousands of television shows for free or connect with someone across the globe at the touch of a fingertip, yet there are many in your community who still don’t have access to affordable food, housing, or health and wellness in your own neighborhood.

Poverty is an ongoing reality for several Americans. That’s why we’ve partnered with 10 of the best social service agencies that increase access to basic human needs for families in Northern New Jersey.

Learn more:

Nutley Family Services Bureau

If you see a school-aged child walking around Northern New Jersey with an overflowing backpack, it might be the work of Nutley Family Services Bureau (NFSB). 

Every year, NFSB joyfully fills backpacks with supplies needed to support students for the entire school year. This is just one example of the many ways NFSB is helping their community, which includes offering food assistance and providing mental health support.


Nutley’s mission is to strengthen the emotional and social well-being of individuals and families through affordable mental health counseling and social service programs, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing since 1913.

Founded by a group of civic-minded women, Nutley has been a steadfast force for families for well over a hundred years.

The founders recognized the need for improved social services “… to promote and improve morally and materially, the condition of the poor in the town of Nutley.”

The nature of the agency’s work varied to meet the diverse challenges facing local individuals in the first half of the twentieth century, including the Great Depression, World Wars I and II. 

Make ONE DONATION to the Holiday Fund and support 10 life-changing organizations in New Jersey.


Here’s what one client said about her experience receiving mental health services through NFSB:

I have been coming here for the past three years,” the client explained. “While working with my clinician, I have been able to overcome certain issues and have become a better person. 

Without my clinician’s help I would have never gotten to this point in my life. If anyone is looking for a place to talk, come to NFSB.

Healing is found when people in need have a safe, accessible place to receive the help they need. For many in Northern New Jersey, that place is Nutley. 


During the challenging circumstances of 2020, Nutley expanded their diverse essential services to the community. For example, Nutley:

  • Met increased demand for the Food Pantry services by providing supplemental food security for over 700 individuals
  • supported the Nutley Public Schools by helping to distribute over 16,000 meals and facilitating therapeutic groups to improve children’s mental health
  • Provided 5,000 remote tele-therapy counseling sessions to over 450 clients through their Psychotherapy Center.


Did you know that 110 volunteers provide weekly support at Nutley? You can make that 111 if you’d consider donating a portion of your time to make a contribution to the community.

Simply submit a Volunteer Application Form found on the Nutley website. 


When NFSB first started seeing the Smith family, John was 9 years old. His grandparents made the decision to become John’s caregiver because his mother had struggled with alcohol use disorder for most of her adult life.

There were several issues that the grandparents had to work through as they adjusted to their decision,” said Joe Armentano, MSW, LCSW, and Coordinator of Education and Staff Development at NFSB. “The grandmother had health issues, the grandfather had to continue working in his 70s to make it work financially, and they were both stressed and frustrated about their daughter’s addiction.

John had been seemingly scapegoated for his mother’s struggles and was over-medicated by a psychiatrist outside of NFSB. He was dealing with his own social issues and never knew his biological father.

The grandmother was well-intentioned but would often hover over John,” Joe said. “She was over-involved and created somewhat of an adversarial relationship with John’s school. In family therapy, we worked to develop a healthier parenting system that worked for everyone while collaborating closely with John’s school counselor.

Because John had behavioral issues and social anxieties that were causing him to get in trouble in school, virtual learning during the pandemic was beneficial. This reduced the amount of negative attention and allowed John to work through his own challenges.

When substance use disorders impact a family, communication is often unhealthy,” Joe said. “John is such a great kid with a big heart and strong moral compass. We worked with him to express his feelings and connected him with family activities and volunteering opportunities through a local church group.

Family therapy through NFSB, along with ongoing communication with doctors and the school counselor, resulted in tremendous improvement for John. When he stopped taking medication that had been previously prescribed, his demeanor and personality changed significantly.

The grandparents, who continued to devote their love and energy to John, received counseling as well. They learned to trust and work with the school for John’s benefit and gained a better understanding of how to fill the role of parents in a more productive way.

Self-care is extremely important,” Joe said. “As caregivers, grandparents can be so focused on the well-being of their grandchildren that they neglect themselves. Because of the stigma and fear that often surround mental health, many people who are struggling don’t ask for help. I’m glad they had the courage to reach out to us for support.

This is just one of the many stories of impact reported by NFSB. 

The family has gone through its share of growing pains during this period of change, but they’re in a much better place today. Family therapy provided the foundation for healing, progress, and growth as the grandparents adjusted to their role as primary caregivers and John worked through his difficulties.

Learn more about Nutely and receive periodic updates when you visit the organization’s website at