As I pray for the safety of my siblings and family and friends in Israel, I keep thinking about the fact that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. No joke, it feels like it’s been Mental Health Awareness Year, ever since this pandemic began. It is hard to imagine adding the fear of seeing rockets fly overhead and hearing the booms of the Iron Dome while huddled in safe rooms or stairwells throughout the night. And it’s even harder to imagine the toll this is taking on children living through this.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic, in which we have already seen an increase in mental health needs and hospitalizations for mental illness, will have far-reaching, if still unknown, effects on the mental health of our children. In The Cut’s article “The Children of Quarantine,” author Lisa Miller writes, “The kids who are suffering most in this pandemic are the kids who were already suffering most. Kids with intellectual or physical disabilities, for example, whose lives depend on reliable schedules or in-person care, are disconnected from their lifelines.” We talk about how resilient children can be, but at the same time, it is our job to be vigilant and proactive in making sure the youngest generation’s mental health needs are being met during this time.
This Sunday evening, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, where we commemorate the receiving of our Torah. The Jewish people are united in our response to this gift, declaring “na’aseh v’nishmah” — “we will do and we will listen.” And that is exactly what we are doing now, even when we feel helpless — we are listening to the mental health needs of our community’s children and we are acting to meet those needs.
I do hope you will join me at the upcoming June 3rd webinar, which has the very timely focus of “The Impact of Trauma on Our Youth: Myths, Facts, and Strategies,” with Dr. Miri Bar-Halpern, an Israel-trained clinical psychologist who is now the Director of Intensive Outpatient Treatment Services at the Boston Child Study Center.
As we say in our prayer for the welfare of Israel, “spread over her Your canopy of peace”—may we all receive the blessings of health, safety, and peace.