Jessica Goldberg, 18, founded a support group for Metro Detroit siblings to share their experiences and stories.
By Alana Blumenstein
Featured photo by Justin Milhouse
Growing up with a sibling who struggles with mental health can be a challenge. Jessica Goldberg, an 18 year-old student at North Farmington High School, experienced this firsthand with her younger brother. While there were resources offered for her parents and her brother, Goldberg had difficulty finding resources for siblings like herself.
So, she created Sib4Sib, a nonprofit support network for siblings of children with mental health issues. Each session is facilitated by a licensed psychologist, so kids and teens can feel comfortable sharing their stories. “I wanted my own safe space as a sibling,” Goldberg says.
With help from mentor Sammi Shapiro, administrative assistant at Adat Shalom, Sib4Sib was founded in November 2016. “She had a great vision and great direction,” says Shapiro, of Huntington Woods. “Sib4Sib has created a space where kids are realizing that they are not the only ones who feel that way.”
Dozens of students have attended Sib4Sib, which now offers a variety of programs for kids ages 6 through 18, but Goldberg says finding participants was initially tough. “We’re fighting the stigma of mental health,” she says, explaining that many teenagers were not comfortable admitting their struggles. “It was really an uphill battle.” When they added a junior group for ages 8 to 11, their numbers grew. While teens were more self-conscious, bringing in a younger age group encouraged a more open-minded perspective.
For parent Caroline Margolis of Bloomfield Hills, Sib4Sib helped her daughter connect with others like her. “It was a wonderful way for my daughter to meet other kids,” Margolis says. “She looks forward to going every time.” Parent Sarah Rosenzweig of West Bloomfield says the program has also improved the environment at home. “I think it’s amazing that they have a place that’s safe, where they know they can talk openly,” Rosenzweig says. “(Jessica) has so much passion about helping our community break down barriers for mental health.”
Goldberg hopes participants will take away important coping skills, but also develop lifelong friendships from the Sib4Sib sessions. “We’re trying to build a sibling community,” she says.
Although her home life has its challenges, she says she wouldn’t change it. “I’m really grateful that I have this opportunity to help so many siblings,” Goldberg says. “That’s what I think makes us so special is that I really get this experience. And I want to make it the best possible.” She adds that none of this would be possible without the support of her parents. “I could not have done this without them,” Goldberg says.
Goldberg is the recipient of a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award and recently received $36,000 to put toward her project. “The Hellen Diller Family Foundation has given me an incredible opportunity to further my vision,” Goldberg says. “I’m just so grateful for this opportunity.”
With the award, Goldberg hopes to continue spreading the sibling message. “I started and I said, ‘If I can touch one other person that will be enough,’ ” she says.
When talking to peers in the program, Goldberg emphasizes they are not alone in their struggles. “Everybody experiences challenges,” she says. She advises siblings to seek resources if needed and to be open and honest with parents about their feelings. “They’re your biggest ally in this,” Goldberg says. “It can be hard, but it gets better. It really does.”
Jessica is a 2019 SEEN Young Changemaker. Read more about the finalists: