May is Mental Health Awareness month is the US. As you know from my previous writings, this is something that I care a lot about. As someone who has mental illnesses and a psychiatric service dog, I am all for more awareness of the growing number of those diagnosed with mental illnesses or disabilities. 

In the Jewish setting, this is not a topic you hear a lot about. You do not hear Mi Shebeirach prayers read aloud in synagogue for those openly suffering from debilitating mental illnesses. You do not often see care committees focusing resources to help those struggling with horrible symptoms stuck at home or overwhelmed. There are no cards or brisket or challah sent over. No phone calls just checking in or encouraging one to keep going. I am not writing this necessarily to critique the Jewish response to mental illnesses and mental health for on the flip side, how many times do we have workshops that promote mental health? Does your rabbi or teacher give tips at times of great hardship to guide you towards healthy mental practices or perhaps services that could help you?

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I dream of a day when there is a greater Jewish response to those struggling with mental illnesses. I dream of day when synagogues collaborate with mental health services in their area to help congregants lead healthy mental lives. I dream of a day when names are read, with permission of those disabled by their mental illnesses or suffering a lot at the moment, out loud in front of the congregation with the names of those who are physically ill or disabled. I dream of a day when care committees reach out to those in need and use their resourced to help those struggling with mental illnesses.

The time has come for the Jewish community to be educated about mental illnesses and to cast away the prejudices or judgments we have towards those suffering or mental health in general. These are people like me who need help. There are days I struggle to get out of bed or need help with tasks as simple as a run to the store. There are times when I am struggling a lot and need the prayers of others. Often I long for a call or card or email just to remind me that there are people who care. People who share their light with me when mine is going out.

Many people have praised me for being open about my mental disabilities. To them I say that it is not being brave or anything like that. I am being honest about a big part of my life. It is not my whole life. I can still participate and enrich my community with my gifts. I still go out into the world and chase my dreams. But my mental disabilities are hard and require help and because of the nature of my disabilities,  I need others to help me. I need patience, help and compassion. Just like any serious physical disability or illness, I need others. It's just a fact. I wish my life was easier. I wish I could be more "normal". 

But the beauty of Judaism is coming as I am. The beauty is in the love of others in my life. The compassion of a rabbi who knows how to read between the lines in my face and words. The care of a friend who takes you out for dessert and listens lovingly as you cry all over your milkshake because you are at the end of your rope. The beauty of a community who supports me and helps me flourish in Jewish life and understands my limitations.

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