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Understanding Mental Health

Friday, 1 February, 2019 - 12:14 pm

One of the biggest challenges facing our generation is the issue of Mental Health and its ramifications on individuals, families and communities. Studies show that 44 Million American Adults have been diagnosed with a Mental Health issue and a staggering 12% of youth in this country, a number which continues to climb.  

As part of my work I visit many people in all kinds of situations including some who are going through some painful and challenging adversities. Yet when I visit and work with families or individuals who are dealing with a Mental Health issue within the family, there is often a pain and suffering beneath the surface that is beyond words and articulation.

Thankfully, the stigma issues often associated with Mental Health have come a long way and people are a lot more comfortable with being open about it and getting the proper help. At the same time, so many people and their families are suffering through the roller coaster rides of Mental Health challenges and as a society and a community we need to continue to move forward to truly be there for all people and to make sure that we can provide as much support as necessary.

Of course there are so many questions which we need to have a continuing conversation about both on an academic level on a communal level. Might some things be preventable? Might a stronger community support network allow less people to fall through the cracks and have a sense of belonging and real friendships? Are there things that we could improve on as a society in terms of our values, focus, and activities which can help strengthen our youth and family structures and help with this matter? How are we doing as a community to be there for families and individuals who are dealing with this challenge?

Last night at Chabad of Sudbury we hosted Dr. David Rosmarin who gave a fascinating interactive lecture on the topic of Spirituality & Mental Health and what Science has to say about this (audio here). This is just one piece of the conversation which was an eye opener and it provided a glimpse into some of the realities of Mental Health Care in this country.

While in Judaism we are always obligated to care about our fellows, this issue is of obvious importance in thinking about ways we and our children can be more mindful and inclusive of others and what we can be doing further to help those are dealing with this.

In this week’s Torah Portion there is a verse that states “If you see the donkey of your enemy collapsing under its burden, and are inclined to desist from helping him, you shall surely help along with him (23:5)”. There is a very literal meaning to this verse which is a practical idea about helping your fellow who is dealing with a challenge even if he is not your friend.

Yet the Baal Shem Tov gave a Chassidic meaning to this verse and explained as follows. If you see the “body” (Chamor can also mean “coarseness”) collapsing under its weight and challenges, you shall surely help, and do not perceive the body as the enemy and the underminer of the spiritual self. Rather learn to work together and synchronize the spiritual side of your personality with the more coarse and physical side of your personality, so that together they work in harmony at achieving their purpose in life.

What is true about us as individuals is also true of us as a society. Learning how to harness all the different components of who we are as a community and enabling them to all be in sync with each other and working towards a greater good, is ultimately what a Jewish community and any community is all about. Mental Health is a big component of our communities, so in addition to the essential professional side of this discussion, let’s all give it some thought and see if there are ways that we can be of help to others, or more sensitive to the needs of others, or maybe others who would be receptive and appreciate a helping hand or shoulder to lean on.

Shabbat Shalom

Yisroel 

P.S Next Shabbat Feb 9th we will be hosting a Shabbat dedicated to Inclusion and we will feature some local parents or family members who will share their personal perspectives on this topic.

 

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