A record number of synagogues, schools, and Jewish communal organisations joined the mental health charity Jami late last month in marking the fifth Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (MHAS).
Organisers say its need was greater than ever this year, after the cumulative toll of several lockdowns was widely reported to have created new mental health issues and exacerbated existing problems.
The impact of the pandemic was a primary focus for many speakers discussing increasingly common issues such as loneliness, anxiety, and stress.
“For those already living with mental illness or caring for someone with mental health problems, these past months have been tougher than ever,” said coordinators.
This year’s MHAS was held on 22-23 January, coinciding with Shabbat ‘Bo’ during which the weekly Torah portion about the plague of Darkness is read. “The description of this plague has particular resonance with mental illness,” they said.
More than 200 organisations marked the occasion with events including United Synagogue’s MHAS-dedicated Kabbalat Shabbat on US.TV, a Board of Deputies’ panel event featuring Jami chief executive Laurie Rackind, and a panel event featuring mental health advocate Jonny Benjamin at Chabad’s Jewish Life Centre.
Northern Reform shuls came together for a virtual MHAS programme for adults, primary and secondary school children, while others such as Senior Masorti Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg opted to raise funds for Jami by running a half-marathon.
“I am so proud to be part of a community that raises awareness and promotes conversations around mental health,” said Rackind. “Challenging stigma and encouraging people to talk about mental health, without fear of discrimination, is a vital first step to making sure people get the help they need.”
If you need support, or are supporting someone who needs help, visit https://jamiuk.org/get-support/ or contact 020 8458 2223
If you are struggling to cope or need immediate help, contact Shout’s 24/7 crisis text service. Text Jami to 85258 for free, confidential support.
For free, safe, and confidential online counselling and emotional wellbeing services for adults, contact Jami Qwell at https://www.qwell.io/jami or for students visit https://student.kooth.com/jami
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