The CarePlus Acceptance, Life, Leadership, Identity, Education and Support group – also known as A.L.L.I.E.S. – is celebrating a year of support to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) teens.
The A.L.L.I.E.S. Wellness and Support Group was created by CarePlus in response to a study by “The Family Acceptance Project.” Researchers found that LGBTQ teens that lack family support are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, and six times more likely to report high levels of depression. The study also indicated that teens who have a peer-to-peer support system showed improved mental health and a greater sense of well-being as compared to LGBTQ teens that did not.
A.L.L.I.E.S. is centered on a psycho-educational group model. This specific type of group focuses on providing education to participating members and creating a safe-space to empower participants, provide self-help support strategies, encourage healthy peer connectedness, and well-being in a judgement-free zone. In addition, A.L.L.I.E.S. offers LGBTQ teens and their families the opportunity to connect with additional mental health and wellness programs, including individual and family counseling.
In the last year, members of A.L.L.I.E.S. have reported an increased sense of connectedness and well-being individually, within the group, among their participating peers, as well as with interpersonal relationships with non-participating peers and family members.
The A.L.L.I.E.S. program is led by Jamisin Saracino, MA, a CarePlus employee since 2008. Saracino is the Training and Awareness Coordinator for the GLS Suicide Prevention Program, and Community and Educational Liaison. A master-level counselor, she is also a presenter and educator for CarePlus Innovations, providing training to the community regarding various topics such as LGBTQ Cultural Competency, Suicide Prevention Awareness, Bullying Prevention, and Mental Health Fist Aid (MHFA).
“In the last year, active participants have reported an increased sense of connectedness to their peers and community. The group recognizes the importance of both sexual/affectional and gender identities, while promoting a judgement-free zone throughout the group process and within the community as well,” said Saracino.
One of Saracino’s most memorable moments over the past year occurred after the first group session. As she escorted the group members to meet their families in the waiting room, one adolescent said, “Thank you for making this group. I never thought I would meet another person like me.” She added, “That’s what makes this all worthwhile.”
A.L.L.I.E.S. is offered at the Care Plus NJ, Inc. Headquarters located at 610 Valley Health Plaza in Paramus, and is open to all LGBTQ teens aged 13-17. To register or for more information, contact Jamisin Saracino at 201-797-2660 ext. 422.