Five Jewish schools are to hire specialists in mental wellbeing as part of a three-year pilot project designed to identify and help those students suffering in silence.
The unprecedented intervention, which includes JFS, JCoSS and Yavneh College, is all the more noteworthy because it brings together Jewish organisations and charities working in education, mental health and youth services.
Under the plans, five schools – including Broughton Jewish Primary School in Salford and Rimon Primary School in Golders Green – will hire a Wellbeing Practitioner, in recognition that one in ten children now suffer from a mental health issue.
Recruitment is already underway, with Rimon advertising for a part-time practitioner to work two days a week, “initially for one year,” for someone “to improve confidence and ability to give children and young people the support and direction they require to build resilience”.
It says the new role-holder will also “promote healthy lifestyles and positive mental health and wellbeing” and deliver group talks on topics such as “mindfulness, resilience, anxiety management and growth mindset”.
The pilot follows the Chief Rabbi’s groundbreaking guide for Jewish schools this summer, in which he urged a radical rethink to protect Jewish students from LGBT+ related bullying.
In his report, written jointly with a Jewish LGBT+ charity, he cited shocking statistics showing the extent of self-harm and suicide attempts among Jewish students.
This week the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) said its Wellbeing Task Force was now addressing the “increasing mental health challenges facing Jewish children and young people today”.
Organisations such as Norwood, Jami, Camp Simcha, Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) and youth network Reshet are all taking part in the pilot, with support and guidance from philanthropists and foundations.
“I am proud we have banded together to work as one,” said JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein. “I am confident that the coalition we have assembled will continue to work towards our collective goal: protecting the mental wellbeing of our children.”
JFS headteacher Rachel Fink welcomed the move, saying it “reflects the importance we place on mental health and wellbeing across the community”.
The JLC said new practitioners will push a “whole school approach to emotional wellbeing,” oversee how resources are used in schools and “ensure a holistic, coordinated and thorough programme of activity that reaches out in creative and imaginative ways”.
The Community Wellbeing Taskforce is to be chaired by Nicola Cobbold of the Portland Trust, while clinical governance will be led by Dr Mark Berelowitz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Royal Free Hospital.