The Burlington County Commissioners and Burlington County Department of Human Services are bringing The Liv Project to Burlington County to help residents engage in frank and open discussions about teenage suicide and mental illness.
The nonprofit group will feature at three upcoming special events on June 20 at the Pemberton Community Library in Browns Mills, June 21 at the Burlington County Library in Westampton, and Sept. 19 at Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel.
All three events will begin at 6 PM with free screenings of My Sister Liv, a feature length documentary about sisters Tess and Olivia Kunik and the latter woman’s struggles with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. After the film, Tess and her mother, Honey Beuf will lead the audiences in “talk-back” sessions about mental illness, suicide and how Olivia’s death moved them to start The Liv Project.
My Sister Liv is 71 minutes long and is considered appropriate for teenagers 14 and older.
Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson said the events are another way Burlington County is taking a leadership role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and making assistance available to those in need.
“Our Board is committed to making our county stigma-free and we’re proud to help bring Tess and her mother to Burlington County to share this important film with our residents and to encourage them to have a frank and honest discussion about the intense pressures adolescents and young adults face,” said Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services. “By talking about mental illness and suicide, we hope to generate greater understanding of these issues and what we can do to better support and assist those who are suffering. Engaging in these kinds of difficult conversations can help us find solutions.”
In 2021, the Commissioners approved a resolution designating all of Burlington County as stigma-free. As part of that resolution, the Board pledged to combat misperceptions about mental health and substance use disorders to raise awareness about available treatment and support programs.
Many Burlington County municipal governments and school districts have passed similar resolutions of support for the County’s stigma-free initiative, including Bordentown City, Bordentown Township, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Chesterfield, Cinnaminson, Delran, Evesham, Florence, Lumberton, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Palmyra, Pemberton Township, Shamong and Westampton.
Burlington County Commissioner Deputy Director Tom Pullion said the support for the stigma-free initiative sends a powerful message to residents suffering with mental illness or substance use disorder.
“All residents need to know they are not alone and that assistance and support is available to anyone who needs it regardless of age, wealth or circumstance,” said Pullion. “This is important for our children. We know one in five of them is likely struggling with a mental health disorder, yet only half of those ever receive treatment. With the help of The Liv Project, we can raise awareness and let parents and kids know it’s ok to talk about mental illness and suicide.”
State Senator Troy Singleton also encouraged parents, teens, teachers, youth leaders and other residents to attend one of the events.
“Adolescent depression and other mental illnesses impacting teens is a public health issue that requires open and honest discussion,” said Senator Singleton. “I commend Burlington County for bringing The Liv Project here to engage our residents and help facilitate this important conversation.”
If your life or someone else’s life is in imminent danger, call 911.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and need immediate help, dial 988 or call the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline at 1-855-654-6735. Help is also available online at www.nj.hopelien.com or by texting firstname.lastname@example.org .