Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2021
A record number of shuls, schools and other communal organisations joined Jami in marking the fifth Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (MHAS) with a wide range of interactive education sessions, virtual panel events and engaging speakers. The MHAS was launched in 2017 with the aim of raising the profile of mental health in the Jewish Community. This year’s theme was ‘The Impact of the Pandemic’.
For so many of us, living through this pandemic has meant we have had to cope with physical health concerns, uncertainty and social distancing restrictions, which have led to increased feelings of 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.
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.
Over 200 organisations marked the occasion with events including United Synagogue’s MHAS dedicated Kabbalat Shabbat on US.TV; the Board of Deputies livestream “BoDCast” Panel Event featuring Jami’s CEO Laurie Rackind; and a panel event featuring Jonny Benjamin MBE at Chabad’s Jewish Life Centre.
Northern Reform communities joined together to deliver a virtual MHAS programme for adults, primary and secondary school children; while Reform Judaism’s RSY Netzer hosted a conversation with parents who had lost their children to suicide. Bnei Akiva provided wellbeing packs to their members including information and activities from Jami’s MHAS Toolkit.
Jami delivered an online programme of events, including an interview with Dr Ellie Cannon by broadcast journalist Samantha Simmonds, discussing how parents can support their children during these difficult times; as well as a Head Room Education session exploring the continuing impact of living through a pandemic and how to manage the uncertainties we are facing.
Other’s chose to raise awareness and vital funds for Jami by taking on challenges. Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg explained, “I chose to mark the MHAS by running a half marathon. We are living through a time of anxiety for us all and deepening distress for many. Despite the challenges of the past year, Jami has redoubled its efforts to be accessible, available and helpful to the increasing numbers of people who turn to it for support. Yet Covid and the lockdowns, which make the work of Jami so important, also mean that it is harder than ever to raise the necessary funding to enable it to maintain and develop the services and the care so many of us need”.
Maccabi GB continues to support the MHAS through the “One Minute for Mental Health” campaign, this year with videos created by prominent members of the community and sports personalities such as Dean Furman and Hollie Geey, talking about why good mental health is so important.
Laurie Rackind, Chief Executive at Jami, said:
” I am so proud to be part of a community that raises awareness and promotes conversations around mental health. 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”
Save the date now for next year’s MHAS, 7-8 January 2022.
How to get help
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.