A group of 50 leading Jewish psychiatrists has issued a dire warning of a mental health epidemic among young Jews, with more than half apparently now living with the condition.
Shocking data from the Institute of Jewish Policy Research found that 26 percent of the Jewish community is living with some form mental illness, distress or trauma, with these difficulties affecting no less than 55.5 percent of under 25s. This can range from anxiety and depression to feelings of hopelessness.
So severe is the situation that the eminent doctors have highlighted “a significant increase in the scale and gravity of mental illness and distress” within the community. “Investing in supporting mental health isn’t a luxury,” they say In a letter organised by the charity Jami. “If we are to consider ourselves a kind and just community, it’s a must.”
Stating that “none of us can afford to ignore these stark statistics”, the letter goes on to say: “Jami “understands the cultural nuances of those it supports and provides its expert support with deep empathy and without judgement”.
Jami currently supports over 1,650 people in the Jewish community whose mental illness and distress makes everyday life a struggle. One beneficiary Adam says; “It’s important that you don’t have to go outside the Jewish community to get that support. I don’t know how I or my family would have survived without Jami.”
The charity is aiming to maintain adult services at their current record high levels and grow its Children and Young Person’s service, which provides in-school support at JFS and JCoSS, as well as in the wider community.
Dr Abigail Swerdlow, psychiatrist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Jami trustee, says: “I and many of my peers in the Jewish community felt compelled to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental illness and distress among Jewish young people and adults. Many of us are aware that our mental health services are struggling with the increasing demand and complexity. However, it is of the utmost importance that help is provided to those who need it, in a timely manner. This is why Jami, and all the support it offers, is an invaluable resource that, as a community, we should feel privileged to have and be eager to support.”
Co-signatory, Dr Fiona Sim, public health consultant and former Chair of the Royal Society for Public Health, says: “It’s imperative that access to effective, community-based early intervention services, like Jami, is bolstered significantly and urgently, because the demand for scarce specialist NHS clinical services has become unsustainably high.”
Laurie Rackind, chief executive of Jami, says: “Covid exacerbated an existing mental health emergency in our community but unlike Covid, there is no vaccine for mental illness and distress. Addressing our community’s mental health challenge will require a long-term, collective effort. We are calling on those who are able to do so, to get behind Jami as generously as possible to ensure we can continue to provide vitally needed services for children, young people and adults.”
Louise Kermode, director of services at Jami, says: “While medical treatment and support are important when it comes to mental illness and distress, Jami’s services have an equally fundamental part to play in supporting people’s needs. This is because Jami provides not only psychological, social and practical support that is so important to each individual’s recovery, but it also offers daily connection with others, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of trust because of its cultural understanding and focus on peer support.
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