If we all believe mental health is so important, why are so few people willing to do more than just talk about it?
We have all learned the hard way that we as frum Jews are not immune from the problems that the rest of the world is dealing with. Of course, halacha and Chassidus provide powerful guidance for each of us. But there still can be mental and emotional problems that need care and attention. We have the same mental health needs and struggles as anyone else. This is all the more true for our children and teens, who are still trying to understand who they are and what they need, not just to function, but to thrive.
It’s true that slowly, we are getting better about being open to these conversations. But that’s simply not enough! Conversations, at the end of the day, can’t accomplish much more than moving topics into the mainstream. While that’s important, it doesn’t change the reality so many children and teens are still living in.
If teachers, rabbeim, and administrators don’t know how to support mental health needs and struggles, it doesn’t matter if they support them in theory. At the end of the day, the most important thing is action. This is where so many people and schools, even the most well-intentioned, fail. They know what the problems are, but not how to solve them.
We’ve all seen firsthand the way that students and children struggle when they don’t receive the support they need, whether because the adults around them don’t understand the problem or because they don’t know what to do about it.
Our children spend so much time at school and so, as parents, we have to accept that the school is partnering with us in raising our kids. It’s not only about what’s happening at home or at school, it’s about both. We have to work together to care for the future. And in order to do that, we have to invest in real chinuch, the kind that stretches far beyond information learned in class. True chinuch is the education of the neshama.
That’s why what Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh is doing is so revolutionary; instead of just acknowledging the problem, they are tackling it at its root. Their wellness division cares for all the students enrolled in a way that no other Jewish day school is currently doing. The fact that children with great need receive free one-on-one therapy is a resource that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
This should be what all of our schools look like. How can students connect with Hashem, with the Rebbe, with their studies and their friends, if they are blocked by learning struggles, mental health problems, and emotional needs that aren’t being cared for? They can’t! Ensuring that our childrens’ mental health is cared for is not what’s done instead of learning. It’s what needs to happen for any learning to take place at all!
Schools, parents, and teachers should be looking to Yeshiva Schools for a sense of what is needed to properly care for our precious children and students in this day and age.
So enough with just talking about the struggles our children are facing. At the end of the day, ha’maiseh hu ha’ikar. So go to whollychinuch.org and watch the livestream at 7 tonight, where we’ll be having the kind of discussion that leads to action. It will remind that you’re not alone in whatever parenting or chinuch struggles you may be having. And give whatever you can to this crucial campaign, even 5 or 10 dollars. These are the strongest ways to take action, to say, “Enough with the hand-wringing, it’s time to do something to help all our children!”
A Grateful Mother