Accept, acknowledge and understand mental illness

 The stresses of 21st-century living mean that now, more than ever, we need to raise awareness about protecting our mental health in the same way we do our physical health. We need to build resilience (the capacity to confront and cope with life’s challenges) to help create better health outcomes and reduce stress.

Research shows social networks have a positive effect on physical and emotional well-being. Although we consider ourselves individuals, it is our connection to particular groups that is most important in constructing a sense of identity.

Building and maintaining those relationships and social networks supports our ability to build resilience at both an individual and community level. In our community, our family, friends, synagogues, schools and organisations throw the reach of that vital network even further.

Earlier this month, World Mental Health Day focused on the issues facing young
people and how we can protect and empower the next generation.

As a community, we need to create a Jewish social care sector that has the capacity and capability to promote good mental health for all while recognising the signs of poor mental health and knowing how to respond. Mental health should not be boxed in to its own silo.

Protecting our mental health and supporting people experiencing mental illness is everyone’s business and is the business of all services across the social care divide.

Children, the elderly, people with life-limiting illness, physical and learning disabilities are not immune to mental health problems.

Indeed, there may be increased prevalence among these groups and everyone has the right to, and should expect the same level of service from, all social care providers.

Jami, our community’s mental health service, is working to help build capacity and capability in all communal organisations to enable the community to support all its constituents, regardless of their mental health.

The social care needs of the individual, not his or her mental health diagnosis, should dictate which organisation is best placed to provide care or support.

By investing in the mental health education and training of communal organisations, employers and individuals, the longer-term demand for significant specialist mental health interventions will be reduced.

Indeed, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists 2010 report No Health Without Public Mental Health, promoting mental health can bring great physical health, social and economic benefits and so reduce the overall social care needs of the community.

Our vision should be of a Jewish community that accepts, acknowledges and
understands mental illness.

We need a community that is resilient and has the capacity  and capability to be healthy. A community  in which symptoms of mental illness are as recognisable as those of a heart attack and trigger equally appropriate first aid response.

It should be a community in which parity of esteem is a reality and an environment that helps, not hinders, recovery.

The closer we get to achieving this vision, the more Jami can focus on providing specialist services to the most unwell in our community, the numbers of which will hopefully be ever dwindling.

About the Author
Liz is Head of Development, Jami
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