As you may have noticed, this month Ritualwell featured guest blog posts for Mental Health Awareness Month. You might wonder why an organization devoted to ritual would choose to address this topic. Mental illness affects us all, and Jewish communities in particular are failing to support those struggling with their mental health issues. In many communities, particularly in the Jewish community, we do not discuss mental illness often, let alone acknowledge it through ritual.
As you have read throughout the month on our blog, many individuals wrote to Ritualwell in order to share their stories: stories of their loved ones, both battling and succumbing to suicide. But the tragic occurrences of suicide are but one part of mental health awareness; individuals in our community struggle daily with depression, anxiety, mania, psychosis, drug addiction, and much, much more. As communities we are quick to respond when someone is hospitalized for a much needed surgery, or to provide food for new parents just arriving home after the birth of a new baby, but how do we and why don’t we acknowledge the challenges and journeys of those around us dealing with mental illness and drug addiction? Is it too scary to pay attention, because the one suffering could just as easily be us? Or perhaps it is us, also dealing with our own struggles? Whatever it may be, we have a lingering stigma within Jewish communities and we must work to break down this stigma.
We can begin by providing a safe and supportive space for people to share their stories and struggles. Ritualwell aspires to be a place that encourages and demonstrates creativity in ritual in order to support and help people connect to the healing powers of Jewish ritual. Who is of greater need for the healing power of Jewish ritual than those on the journey of navigating mental health issues?
We at Ritualwell want to thank all the blog writers who wrote this month, for bravely sharing their stories and working with us to break down the stigma associated with mental illness. It is truly humbling and touching to be trusted to publish your stories. May we continue to feel inspired to create rituals which acknowledge and support those dealing with mental health issues—not just the individuals affected but their friends, families, and communities. Let us continue these conversations regarding mental health within our families, classrooms, synagogues, community centers, and any place where education and support is needed. Let us work together to encourage those around us to share their stories and experiences so that we can bring greater support and awareness regarding mental health into our communities. If you would like to further the conversation and help remove the stigma regarding mental illness, please reach out to Ritualwell or any of the blog writers featured this month. Only when we begin sharing and listening can we truly live the words of the blessing:
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ הַפּוֹרֵשׂ סֻכַּת שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְעַל כל יושבי תבל ועל יְרוּשָׁלָיִם
Blessed are You, Adonai, Who spreads a shelter of peace over us, over all Your people IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel., and on all the earth’s inhabitants, and over JerusalemLit. City of peace From the time of David to the Roman destruction, Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the spiritual and governmental center of the Jewish people. During the long exile, Jews longed to return to Jerusalem and wrote poems, prayers, and songs about the beloved city. In 1967, with the capture of the Old City, Jerusalem was reunited, becoming "the eternal capital of Israel." Still, the longing for peace is unfulfilled..
Kami Knapp is the rabbinic intern for Ritualwell.