May - Mental Health & Wellness


May – Mental Health & Wellness


Mental Health and Judaism

The Jewish tradition has always placed high regard and attention to the health and wellness of an individual on all physical, mental, and spiritual levels. The Jewish value of sh’mirat haguf (protecting our bodies as they are a gift from God) demonstrates the need to protect and maintain both a healthy body and mind. Another Jewish value, B’tzelem Elohim, meaning that all people are created in the image of God. Since we are all a part of God, it is an obligation to not only maintain a healthy body, but a healthy mind for ourselves and for our community. Although Jewish tradition regards differences between physical and spiritual health – both are equal in terms of importance. Jewish scholar Maimonides stated that when someone becomes overwhelmed with emotion and begins acting differently, a doctor shouldn’t proceed in medical treatment until “he improves the soul by removing the extreme emotions” (Religious Action Center). Lastly, in the Jewish prayer for healing, we ask for refuah sheleimah – the complete recovery of the soul.

Mental health is also an important issue within the Reform Movement. In fact, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) passed a resolution titled, “Establishing a Comprehensive System of Care for Persons with Mental Illnesses” in 2001. This resolution recognizes the stigma that mental illness has in our society and its effect on children, adults, and the workplace environment.

Mental Health Justice within the United States

According to the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) an estimated 1 in 5 adults (almost 44 million) experience mental health issues. For more statistics on mental health in the United States click here. Mental health and mental illness do not discriminate. All people, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class, are all capable of its’ effects. Even though mental illness/health remain prominent today, there is still a lingering stigma associated with the issue. This stigma is increased by lack of education and funding. In fact, many health care providers don’t include mental health issues to be a significant part of their health care coverage. Mental Health America (MHA) reports that 20% of adults with mental illness are unable to receive the treatment they need – and that number hasn’t changed since 2011. You can read more about Mental Health America’s report here.

Mental health inequality is still an important issue that needs to be addressed. There is a growing, unmet need for equal and quality mental health services. Due to disparities in mental health care providers and facilities, there is rapid lack of access to those with lower socioeconomic classes, racial minorities, or LGBTQIA+ populations. To read more about the inequalities of mental health, click here.

  • Podcasts:
    • The Hilarious World of Depression
      • “Mental illness is no laughing matter, but sometimes we need to take a step back from our problems and be able to have a good sense of humor about them.”
    • The Anxiety Slayer
      • “Sometimes, to conquer anxiety, it does feel like you need super powers. The podcast will give you tools to relax and reduce anxiety.”
    • Jen Gotch is Ok.... Sometimes
      • This podcast is brand new and brings a unique perspective. The host is Jen Gotch, who’s known to candidly speak about her struggles with anxiety and depression.”
    • The Mental Illness Happy Hour
      • “Providing comedic relief in hour-long, relatable episodes, this weekly podcast is as clever as its name. Hosted by the comedian Paul Gilmartin.”


  • Film:
    • Running from Crazy (2013)
      • “Centers on three granddaughters of Ernest Hemingway, endeavoring to understand how mental illness affects their family and each of them individually.”
    • Matchstick Men (2003)
      • “Roy, a depressed con artist with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Frank, his partner, find their line of work complicated by the arrival of Roy's teenage daughter.”
    • Happy (2011)
      • “Filmmaker Roko Belic travels to more than a dozen countries, searching for the meaning of happiness.”
    • As Good as It Gets (1997)
      • “A single mother and waitress, a misanthropic author, and a gay artist form an unlikely friendship after the artist is assaulted during a robbery.”
    • The Bridge (2006)
      • “Features interviews with family members who have lost loved ones to suicide at this particular landmark.”
    • Inside Out (2015)
      • “This quirky animation personifies the different emotions inside a young girl’s mind. Characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to help Riley through her family’s move to San Francisco.”
    • Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse (2013)
      • “The documentary sheds light on how people with mental health disorders can be treated by law enforcement officers who aren't properly trained.”
    • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
      • “A human drama inspired by events in the life of John Forbes Nash Jr.”
    • Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)
      • “In Boston, a bipolar individual takes over sole responsibility for his two spirited daughters while his wife attends graduate school in New York.”
  • ELITalks: (Allows individuals and organizations to cultivate, transmit, and curate Jewish ideas and thoughts through digital conversations.)  
  • TED Talks:
  • Books:
    • “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson
      • “This book deals directly with Lawson's experience with mental illness, depression and anxiety.”
    • “An Unquiet Mind” by Kay Redfield Jamison
      • “An international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who are full professors of medicine at American universities - a remarkable personal testimony.”
    • “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
      • “The book was inspired by Vizzini's own brief hospitalization for depression in November 2004.” See the movie.
    • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
      • “The book describes the author's experiences with atypical depression, her own character failings and how she managed to live through particularly difficult periods while completing college and working as a writer.”
    •  “Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman
      • “This powerful story shares the journey of a teenage boy struggling with schizophrenia.”
    • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey
      • “Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the narrative serves as a study of institutional processes and the human mind as well as a critique of behaviorism and a tribute to individualistic principles.”
    • “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig
      • “The book is about making the most of one's time on earth written based on the writer's experience from his own life.”
    • “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
      • “The book's narrator is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell. In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father, a year after he is killed in the September 11 attacks.” See the movie.
    • “Blemished but not Broken” by Kay Kinsley Adams
      • “Growing up with a parent who suffers from a mental illness can be both challenging and confusing, and this is my story of experiencing the various adventures of living a daily life with a mother whose mental health provided a consistent source of both humor and heartache.”
    • “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
      • “Set in the early 1990s, the novel follows Charlie, an introverted teenager, through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb.” See the movie.


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