Herzog: Care of mentally ill to stay with Health Ministry

Mental health self-help charity turns to welfare and social services minister for boost.

Herzog 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Herzog 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A mental health self-help charity, created and run by people with a range of mental disabilities, called on Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog last week to take responsibility for their treatment and assist with tackling the stigmas against them, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
“Many times people with mental disabilities are dealing with issues that should be taken care of by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry.
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They are single-mothers, live in extreme poverty and are often chronically unemployed,” Ari Yardeni, Chairman of Lishma, a non-profit organization that promotes integration and empowerment for people with mental health disorders, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Currently, services for the mentally ill are under the responsibility of the Health Ministry, but according to Yardeni, who suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, treatment should be provided by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.
“The ministry already runs hostels and sheltered housing for the mentally ill, as well as clubs and other community projects, we want to join them further and create more projects and services for the mentally ill,” he said.
“We want to be treated like normal [people],” he said.
In response, Herzog told Yardeni and the other two representatives of Lishma that it was unlikely that the task of caring for the mentally ill would be transferred from the Health Ministry to his office.
Many times people suffering from mental health disorders need medication or hospitalization, which is the direct responsibility of the Health Ministry, explained Ministry of Welfare and Social Services Deputy Director General, Menachem Wagshal.
Herzog suggested that Lishma work together with the National Insurance Institute, which bestows disability allowances to those with mental health problems, to create more rehabilitative services for the mentally ill.
Yardeni, however, said he hoped that social services could do more to reduce the misconceptions surrounding mental health.
“There is such a stigma tied to mental health,” Shula Ben- Daat Alperovitch, a personal coach who works with Lishma told the minister. “There are many people who believe that everyone with such problems is likely to go out and murder their families. We need your support in trying to combat such negative images,” she said.
Ben-Daat Alperovitch was referring to an incident in July, during which a Netanya man, Itai Ben-Dror, stabbed his three small children to death claiming that he heard voices in his head telling him to do so.
“This was very upsetting,” Yardeni said Sunday, highlighting that these stereotypes damage all people with mental health disabilities.
“The statistics show that the percentage of people with mental problems who are likely to do a thing like this is very, very low,” he continued. “The media just looks for good headlines but in reality those with mental health disorders are more likely to be the victims of violence and crime than the other way around.”
Even so, said Yardeni, “people are scared of us and we want to change this image.”
Established in 2006, Lishma’s (www.lishma.co.il) activities were renewed only about six months ago. According to Yardeni, the organization is the only one in Israel run by people with mental health disabilities for people with mental health disabilities. Others, such as Enosh, are run by medical and welfare professionals.
Roughly 100,000 people in Israel are estimated to suffer from mental health disabilities, with a little more than half receiving government disability allowances.