Mental Illness Outreach

Mental Illness Outreach

One in four Americans suffers from mental illness. Nearly every Jewish family has been impacted by this disease. Mental illness frequently raises specifically spiritual issues for individuals, families and communities that call for a spiritual care, as well as a mental health care response such as the need for dignity and self worth, reconciliation in relationships, awe and mystery, and ritual guidance on marking the losses surrounding the journey through mental illness. We offer individualized rabbinic support for individuals and families struggling with mental health challenges and severe emotional distress at home or in the hospital. We also provide support and consultation to mental health professionals looking for spiritual support for their clients.

In addition to individualized support we have pioneered a number of programs and services to help reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and provide compassionate support on a community-wide basis. Including the following programs:

  • We have partnered with five Bay Area synagogues to present conferences on mental illness that have led to increasing awareness and ongoing congregational support.
  • These conferences have led to two ongoing Jewish spiritual support groups for those impacted by mental illness: Beit Refuah at Beth Am in Los Altos hills and the Nachmu Network at Beth Sholom in San Francisco.
  • We have a mental illness task force of lay congregational leaders that meets regularly to plan community wide arts, cultural and educational events on mental health themes such as our 2011 Jewish community outing to the award winning play “Next to Normal” that deals with a woman’s journey through bipolar disorder.
  • We regularly offer professional enrichment workshops and trainings. Previous trainings on spiritual care for those living with mental illness include Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital at UCSF, Marin General Hospital, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Professional Association of Occupational Therapists.
  • Our rabbis visit acute psychiatric units at local hospitals to provide services for Jewish patients during Rosh HaShana, Chanukah and Passover.
  • We send a “holiday in an envelope” package tailored to the needs of patients during a psychiatric hospitalization: it includes ritual items that are safe for a psychiatric environment and mental illness specific holiday prayers.
  • In 2010 we piloted a program in the East Bay in collaboration with five east bay synagogues to train local congregational rabbis to provide spiritual care to members and families struggling with severe mental illness.

People often bring their mental health concerns to clergy even before seeking the help of any other healthcare professional.

Clergy Packet

  1. Fact Sheets
  2. Packet Materials
  3. Prayercard
  4. Resource List

Mental Illness Resources

This is not intended to be a comprehensive directory of mental illness-related services. Please email us if you would like us to add an organization.

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Please contact us at (415) 750-4197 or Gkolthoff@bajhc.org for more information on our mental illness spiritual care services.