“Physical well-being is often prioritized over mental well-being,” says Cindy Citrone, founder of the Citrone 33 Foundation. “As a mother of four young adults and as someone who has struggled with mental health issues myself, I feel that there needs to be more of an emphasis, starting at a young age, on prioritizing mental health and wellness.”
The Citrone family and their Citrone 33 Foundation are dedicated partners of The Jed Foundation (JED) and are committed to supporting mental health programming at a time when this work is needed now more than ever. From investing in education to health and human service programs, the Citrone 33 Foundation is focused on examining the needs of communities, leveraging their resources, and engaging the right organizations to address those needs
“When looking for an established partner in the mental health field, working with JED was a no-brainer,” says Cindy. “The fact that [JED has] done this work for 20 years and has the experience and respect from universities was great to see. JED’s Comprehensive Approach, where students, administrators, and staff are all involved in mental health programs and systems, has been really transformative,” adds Cindy.
With COVID-19 and the stress and uncertainty that it has caused, as well as the other unique factors that young adults today face, “such as the use of social media, this generation really faces some unprecedented challenges,” says Cindy. In a recent Centers for Disease Control study, one in four young adults between 18 and 24 said they have seriously contemplated suicide during the pandemic.
The Citrone family envisions a future where all colleges and universities have a strategic plan and robust programs in place to support the mental health of their students. Their recently established Unpack U program is a Pittsburgh-centric platform that addresses collegiate mental health by meeting students wherever they may be—in their dorms, at home, on Zoom, or on social media. The Citrones felt that it was important to rally around their hometown of Pittsburgh to support their local colleges and universities and provide students with the resources they need to protect their mental health during this unprecedented time.
The Citrones turned to JED to advise on a strategy for implementing the Unpack U campaign and worked in tandem to create mental health and well-being resource guides for nine Pittsburgh campuses.
“Young adults are at a level where they can truly embrace and take in life skills that contribute towards protecting emotional health,” says Cindy. She believes that making an impact earlier in life can make all the difference.
In the future, the Citrone family hopes that other cities and school systems will adopt their Unpack U program. “We want to expand and we want other cities to use Pittsburgh as a model so that two to three years down the road, they can replicate what we’ve done,” adds Gabriella Citrone, Cindy’s daughter and outreach director at the Citrone 33 Foundation.
“With the help and expertise of the JED team, we’re creating a community of staff and students who are elevating mental health across campuses…thank goodness for JED,” says Cindy.
For resources and tips on how to manage mental health in the era of COVID-19, visit JED’s Coronavirus Mental Health Resource Guide.