Striving to end the stigma of mental illness in our Jewish community
The Mental Health Initiative has influenced the beginning of many changes in our congregation over the past year. People are coming forward and participating in activities, sharing their personal experiences, and meeting to address and improve our caring community. To assist us with this work, we have hired a Mental Health Initiative (MHI) Program Coordinator, JoAnne Forman, to work with the clergy, staff and congregation to collaborate on ways to end the stigma and shame around the issue of mental illness.
Click on each of the following to learn more about the ways in JoAnne and her team are implementing this initative and how you can get involved:
Why Stigma Reduction Matters to All of Us
The mission of our Mental Health Initiative is: Striving to end the stigma and isolation of mental illness in our Jewish community. Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what stigma means and why it’s so important that we identify and work to end it.
Approximately 1 in 5 people experiences a mental illness in a given year. Stop and think about what that means: How many people are in your family, or your group of friends? Chances are you, or someone you care about, has faced a mental health challenge this year. In our congregation of nearly 2,000 adults, statistically almost 400 of our fellow community members are likely affected by a mental health issue.
What we know from research is that with treatment and support, 70-90% of people with mental health challenges report an improved quality of life. But stigma makes it difficult for people to reach out for that support; leading to an increased chance of school dropout, difficulty finding or keeping employment, or feelings of isolation and reluctance to engage fully with our religious and spiritual community.
When Rabbi Stacy Friedman gave her 2014 Kol Nidre sermon about mental health, she made a promise that Rodef Sholom would “work to create a safer place for more people to come out from behind the shadows and find the support and care they need to go on with their lives.” Rabbi Friedman also forged the way for Rodef Sholom to start having open and honest conversations about mental health and mental illness. These are the conversations that break down barriers, help family and friends learn how to support each other, and encourage community members to reach out to others.
Stigma reduction happens when we all come together to fight against it - whether we suffer from mental illness, love someone who does, or simply care about being an ally to the cause. By uniting together to reduce the stigma of mental illness we are creating change - strengthening our community, changing the system, and helping to make Rodef Sholom a safe place where everyone - no matter what - feels welcome and comfortable.
To get involved in the Mental Health Initiative or for more information, please contact me at [email protected] or 415.479.3441 x3011.
Mental Health Initiative Program Coordinator