Two Voices: our weekly Progressive Judaism debate:
Do we do enough to support those affected by mental illness?
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner says…
Our communities are at their very best when we can celebrate our joy as well as softening our pain.
A healthy aspect of how society has changed is that we now speak much more openly and honestly about mental illness.
Issues around mental health are no longer hidden as they were in the past. Mental illness is now recognised as part of the fabric of our lives.
I hope this means that people can ask for help and receive the support they need and deserve. To hear rabbis, family and friends, talking about mental health can be a release, allowing people to seek not only professional help but solidarity.
I had clinical depression as a teenager and was blessed to enter the mental health system as a young person and to be accompanied back to health. As a rabbi, being able to identify with those affected by mental illness, either now or in the past, means that people can talk much more freely about these important matters.
Increasingly, care for those affected by mental health issues is a common part of our lives and our community care. Our communities must care for the whole person and an integral part of our wholeness is our mental health.
• Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
Priscilla Van Der Velde says…
Mental illness is a fact of life. One in four people experience mental health problems in any given year.
In the Reform Movement, it appears to me that acceptance of those with illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety is slowly increasing.
We are very fortunate that charitable organisations such as Jami exist and that their services are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the Jewish community, but far more still needs to be done. Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue) does a great deal to combat the stigma, which unfortunately still surrounds mental illness.
As well as regular Shalom Suppers – where people with experience of mental health issues are encouraged to come to a Friday night service, have a meal and share the evening with the congregation – the rabbis and staff actively promote an inclusive attitude that ensures all are treated equally.
Everyone needs to feel normal, useful, valued and have the support of friends… it’s that simple.
As well as donating to and engaging with Jami, you can do routine things with people who have mental health problems, such as going for a coffee or ringing up for a chat to assist their recovery. Support is needed now; what will you do?
• Priscilla van der Velde is manager at Jami Enterprises