Model & Strategy

The Problem
Youth mental health problems are on the rise due to isolation and acute loneliness. Adolescents and young adults are the loneliest demographic by age. In the U.S., 61% of 18-to-25-year-olds report feelings of isolation and loneliness, a higher percentage than elderly people, for whom loneliness is socially understood. In the Netherlands, where Join Us was founded, more than 275K youth suffer from social isolation and ensuing mental health problems. That is about 10% of the 2.7M Dutch inhabitants aged 12-24.

Loneliness and isolation as a young person are harbingers of poorer physical and mental health outcomes into adulthood, including decreased productivity, increased susceptibility to radicalization, and systemic societal challenges. Addressing loneliness before it evolves into more acute issues is a logical yet very underinvested approach in the context of existing healthcare systems. In the Netherlands, for example, all health care including mental health is offered through public private partnerships in which private care providers (therapists, etc.) are contracted through the state. There is almost no preventive mental health care offered through this system.

The Solution
Launched in The Netherlands, Join Us brings together peer groups of youth experiencing isolation and loneliness, and increases their social self-reliance through a multi-week group therapy program offered in-person or online. Join Us has a three-prong approach that taps into local municipalities, the national Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and corporations to fund and deliver youth preventive mental health care. First, Join Us On Location facilitates meaningful in-person social interaction for youth aged 12-30, led by licensed therapists and youth volunteers (alums of the program). Each group meets bi-weekly for a fun and inclusive social activity, during which the professional facilitator observes individual and group dynamics and helps each individual realize their personal goals for the program. Join Us Online is available for young people aged 18-30 who live in a region where no local group is active or for those who feel more comfortable in participating in an online setting. And finally, The Join Us Community is an online community of more than 2,000 members for young people ages 16-30 who are experiencing chronic loneliness and isolation. These early-stage interventions aim to prevent youth from having to deal with the severe consequences of long-term loneliness. Join Us works through the national health system and municipal government licensees in The Netherlands.

At a Glance
Founded: 2018
Founder & CEO: Jolanda van Gerwe
Location of work: International, Europe
Join Us
Brabant, The Netherlands
Bringing people together.
Meet Jolanda van Gerwe

Jolanda is a trained crisis counselor and educator with 15 years of experience working with at-risk youth. After completing her bachelor’s degree in social work in 2009, she founded a counseling and social work practice which she led for a decade until founding Join Us. Her personal experience both as a counselor to struggling parents and families and as a group counselor for children with behavioral and mental health challenges inspired the Join Us model.


Join Us has served more than 6,000 youth in The Netherlands and aims to serve an additional 30,000 in the next three years.

75% of participants report higher levels of resilience and fewer acute mental health issues.