If you see a Jewish child wearing their uniform inside today, it is not because they’re stylistically challenged. It is because they’re making
a statement, and not necessarily against the quality of their education.
Today is Inside Out Day, a new mental health initiative in schools, which aims to teach children that how people look like they’re feeling on the outside may not be how they’re feeling on the inside.
Like too many of the best initiatives, it stems from grief, following the 2016 suicide of a Jewish woman from north London who suffered from bipolar disorder, and like many of the best initiatives, it pushes against
stereotype and stigma in order to help people.
It charts how far and fast we have come on mental health. Readers will recall not too long ago how saturated with stigma our community was on this issue. Breakdown? Hide it. Depression? Smile more. Talk about it? You really must be out of your mind.
That was then, Inside Out is now. So, what’s happened?
Boundary stretchers like campaigner Jonny Benjamin won both awards and hearts. Jews who struggled with mental ill health came out about it. Schools invested in well-being practitioners. Experts began training in shuls, telling people what signs to look out for. Jewish support groups
got support of their own. The Chief Rabbi ignored the critics to say we need to protect the many LGBT+ Jews. Esther Rantzen opened
a helpline for the elderly. Community leaders started talking openly about it, without disgrace.
In under 10 years, we have gone from a stigma-led ostrich community to one that leads the charge on mental health, from primary schools up.
Yet this is no back-slapping moment. We still have much more to do, as evidenced by the heart-breaking recent legal case of a transgender Jewish woman who now cannot see her children because they would be outcast if she did.
In short, there are still very important boundaries to stretch. The thing is, we’re getting really good at stretching them.
Long may our children wear their uniforms inside out.