The stigma, discrimination and lack of awareness and understanding about mental illness that exists within society is something that is actively being challenged and changed. We barely look at the news or social media without hearing about mental illness and how important it is to talk about it.

Within hard-to-reach societies, such as the Charedi community, these issues can be concentrated, as demonstrated by last week’s Jewish News front page story about the plight of strictly-Orthodox women with mental illness.

The lack of exposure to mainstream initiatives that educate and raise awareness requires a different approach that doesn’t compromise the values and beliefs of these communities.

Recovery from mental illness is an individual journey. A bespoke approach is needed to meet people’s needs. The same can be applied to communities. We need to understand the experience of mental illness within different communities in the same way as we do individual people, then empower and support communities to find an acceptable way forward.1015

It is important to acknowledge the existing support systems and benefits that can come from a close-knit community with a strong collective identity.

We know that a sense of belonging, social structures and spirituality can all play a significant role in supporting our mental health. These are some of the strengths the Charedi community has.

We must acknowledge that to support the mental health and wellbeing of the Charedi community we are not trying to change or challenge it.

Jami’s work within the Charedi community is a partnership of understanding.  Jami understands the need to work with the community in a manner that is non-judgemental and which sets out to educate and inform.

The Charedi community may be behind the curve when it comes to people being open about their mental health struggles, but we have found that through education we have been able to deliver mental health awareness training to the community.

Training has been well received as people begin to reframe some of their attitudes and beliefs about mental illness.

We have delivered awareness sessions in Charedi schools and supported teachers to identify children who have symptoms of poor mental health.

Jami also has a community based service in Stamford Hill. We have made connections with local organisations who are directly working with the Charedi community to find additional ways of developing our service to directly support people from the community.

The service needs to be accessible and we are looking at ways to offer single-sex sessions

Earlier this year Jami coordinated a mental health awareness Shabbat, synagogues and organisations from every denomination participated, including the orthodox community.

This demonstrates a drive to raising awareness, increasing education and reducing stigma.

There will be another mental health awareness Shabbat in January 2018 and we warmly welcome all communities to participate.

υ  Visit headonuk.org for more information about the mental health arewareness Shabbat. Jami is the mental health service for the Jewish community