New Mentor Program for Youth with Mental Illness in their Families

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CFCS-LogoOur friends at the Cambridge Family & Children's Service are launching a program to pair local youth who have a relative with a mental illness with an adult mentor with similiar life experiences. This Cambridge-based program is accepting new mentors and mentees, so read on for more information and consider getting involved!

“It would have made all the difference if I’d had a chance to connect with somebody else in similar circumstances.” These were the words told to Sophia Gardner, Mentor Coordinator at Cambridge Family & Children’s Service (CFCS), by a community member who grew up with a mother impacted by a serious mental illness. Two years later, CFCS is launching the Heads Up Mentor Program.

Part of the established CFCS Volunteer Mentor Program, Heads Up connects Boston-area youth and mentors who share the experience of having a family member with a mental illness. These young people may feel confused, conflicted, or isolated—needs often overlooked during traditional treatment. Through supportive and lasting relationships, mentors help youth process their emotions, learn about mental health, and build self-confidence.

Mentors and mentees meet weekly in the community, doing fun and goal-based activities in the community like playing a game, visiting a museum, or discussing mental health – it’s up to them! Heads Up is fully coordinated by CFCS staff, who recruit, screen, train, and supervise volunteer mentors. All mentors undergo an intensive screening process, including an in-person interview and CORI and SORI checks. Staff match mentees with mentors based on common interests, preferences, and the mentee’s needs.

Heads Up is free of charge and open to new mentors and mentees! You don’t need to be referred, and don’t worry—if the first month of the match doesn’t meet your expectations, we’re happy to reevaluate based on your needs.

Mentee Eligibility:

Youth should be between the ages of 8-22, reside in the Boston area, live or have lived with a relative with a mental illness (like a sibling or caregiver), and be able to commit to meeting with their mentor for at least one year. 

Mentor Eligibility:

Mentors should be over the age of 21, have grown up with a family member with a mental illness, and be able to make the minimum one-year commitment to support a young person.

We’re very excited to open this program to the Boston area! If you would like to learn more, please contact Yelena Tsilker at or 617-876-4210 x141.

Expand your universe—become a mentor or mentee!

Youth who are living with mental illness can also become a Teen Speaker through Families for Depression Awareness. We give our teens media training to empower them to attend community events and share their stories. Learn more here.

Family Profiles