Mental Health Awareness Shabbat

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (MHAS), launched by Jami in 2017, aims to raise the profile of mental health in the Jewish Community.

It is an opportunity to encourage people of all ages to be more in touch with their own mental health and wellbeing, and to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness in the local and wider community.

MHAS falls annually on Shabbat “Bo”, the weekly Torah portion which tells about the Plague of Darkness.  The description of the plague of darkness has particular resonance with mental illness – the darkness was so intense that people couldn’t move from their position. This has parallels with descriptions of mental illness.

Last year over 120 synagogues, student and youth groups across the full range of Jewish religious affiliation throughout the UK engaged in the MHAS.

Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 takes place on 31 January & 1 February

“the subject of good mental health and mental health awareness and support is so important and impacts all of us. Thank you for setting up and running this initiative.”

– Rabbi Garber, Shenley United Synagogue

Examples of past projects:

Edgware United Synagogue held a talk entitled “Is there such a thing as Jewish Counselling?” with Sara Cooper, Head of Clinical Services at Raphael Jewish Counselling and a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist with 30 years of experience working with clients as well as teaching and supervising counsellors and therapists.

Hampstead Synagogue Dennington Park United held a talk presented by one of their congregants who is a psychotherapist specialising in supporting people in distress.

A cross communal event was held at The Shrubberies in Manchester, in association with Stenecourt, Heaton Park Hebrew Congregation, The WHC and Holy Law South Broughton Congregation with Ivan Lewis MP, entitled “My Battle With Depression” followed by a panel discussion with Estelle Gillis, Mental Health Occupational Therapist at Neshomo, Dr Emma Santhouse, Chartered Clinicial Psychologist and Dr Jeff Schryer, GP and Chair of Bury NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.  Chaired by Dr Paul Abeles, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Kol Chai Reform Synagogue held a brunch with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the Harrow Samaritans and the OLLIE Foundation (One Life Lost is Enough) and from the Harrow Citizens Mental Health Action Team.  They discussed current issues affecting society’s mental health and what their organisations are doing, followed by a Q & A.

St Albans United Synagogue Screened the movie Screenagers which focuses on the subject of social media and tech time and the impact this has on kids development as well as holding a panel discussion with the heads of Yavneh and JFS as well as the CEO of Jewish Interactive and a family and child / adolescent psychotherapist.

Alyth North Western Reform’s Head of Community Care and Life Cycle gave a Mental Health Awareness Sermon.

Clore Tikva Primary School held a presentation at their assembly to introduce the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat, created a special display in their hall and took part in  activities from the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat Youth Pack.

Central Square Minyan Orthodox Synagogue’s community were addressed by Rabbi Rafi Zarum along with a programme of professional speakers discussing mental health issues across the lifecycle from infancy through childhood, adulthood and old age including Prof Gill Livingston Professor of Psychiatry of older people at University College London, Dr Michael Peters Head of British Medical Association Wellbeing Support Services, Angela Hodes Barrister specialising in the Court of Protection and Assistant Coroner of London Inner West, Ann Peters Health Visitor and Registered Nurse qualified in obstetrics, Emma Gershon Head of Pastoral Care for year 8 at St Mary and St Johns school in Hendon, Debby Lipkin consultant headteacher of JFS, Dr Irene Sclare Consultant Clinical Psychologist at South London and Maudesley NHS Foundation Trust and Helen Bender Consultant Psychotherapist.

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