Mental Health Awareness Week and NFTY

By Joy Nemerson, NFTY Social Action Vice President

This year’s action theme, “R’Fuat HaNefesh- Caring for the Soul: NFTY Addresses Mental Health” can be a little tricky to navigate. This may be attributed to the fact that we know very little about the topic of mental health, and even less about what it means to take action accordingly. Previous social action topics covered challenges such as the environment, hunger, racism, and sexism. While mental health is just as prevalent of an issue, we tend to steer clear in favor of topics we are more familiar with. Not many of us feel like we know enough about mental health to take action. Perhaps this means we have to reframe what it means to take action.  If our action theme was “NFTY Addresses Hunger” and we fed 30,000 people in one year, we would probably consider that to be “action”.  However, if we used this year to educate 7,000 people about bipolar disorder, we may not see that as having taken “action” in the same way. We need to, though. We can’t limit ourselves to action themes that require us to solve or conquer the problem. This is where mental health becomes such an important topic for NFTY to explore, because it asks us to start at the beginning; bringing the conversation to the table. Mental Health is taboo, and yes, mental illness is an uncomfortable topic, but it is incredibly important to gain awareness of. We, as an organization and as a youth movement, must educate our members because we simply do not know enough.

National Alliance on Mental Illness is a mental health organization that is dedicated to building better lives for those who are affected by mental illness. This week, NAMI is promoting Mental Illness Awareness week.  In accordance with NFTY’s action theme, we will use this week to educate one another about mental health and illness. Through various forms of social media and factual resources, we will be spreading information as far and wide as we can about all different aspects of mental health.

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, each NFTY North American board member wrote a pledge concerning something they were personally going to change or do differently in support of the Refuat HaNefesh.

Evan: I want to work towards eliminating stigmas against mental illness, and will work hard to educate myself and other’s to promote better understanding.

Jordan: I sometimes comment about my “obsessive compulsive” behavior without even thinking that it might be offensive to someone who actually has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ll take this topic on in honor of the week.

Jacob: I will strive to better understand the terminology associated with mental health, and use it accordingly.

Marlee: This week I will be more careful with my language and ensure that those around me are too. It is too often that we use words like “crazy” or “psycho” without thinking about the real meaning or impact of those words.

This week, I, Joy Nemerson, will dedicate each day to the spreading of knowledge about different aspects of mental health.

What will you do?

Joy Nemerson is a Freshman at American University in Washington, D.C.  She is studying Political Science and works as a Congressional Intern on Capital Hill.  Joy hails from New Haven, Connecticut and is a proud alumna of NFTY Northeast. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!

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