Submission #334 by B'nai Amoona Men's Club - St. Louis, MO (631)

Submission information
Submitted by maxbrown98
Tue, 2013-04-30 23:11
I have read the General Guidelines, "Nuts and Bolts" and Program Advanced Planning (Excel Spreadsheet) Documents
Club Name
B'nai Amoona Men's Club - St. Louis, MO (631)
Hearing Men's Voices: Removing the Stigma – Mental Health Issues
Club Representative
Person completing form
Club President at time of Convention
Club President Now
Hearing Mens Voices

Page 1

Mental health issues are stigmatized and swept under the rug. Our successful Hearing Men's Voices program hit this topic head-on. One of our members, who has a family member with a history of mental health problems, volunteered to lead a Hearing Men's Voices discussion and prepared talking points and questions to pose to the HMV group. The goal of the presentation was to provide an opportunity to remove or lessen the stigma of mental health issues and to help congregants to be more open and inclusive of those with mental health issues.
B'nai Amoona Men's Club
Hearing Men’s Voices, Removing the Stigma – Mental Health Issues

We have successfully used the FJMC Hearing Men's Voices model for two years. That model is that of a small group of men from the congregation in an informal non-threatening setting discussing serious topics in complete confidence. We presented this issue in two sessions.

Congregation B'nai Amoona is strongly committed to inclusion. For example, two years ago, an ad hoc committee quickly raised more than $50,000 to construct an accessible "lower" bimah at the foot of the sanctuary's "upper" bimah. This lower bimah wasn't built "just in case" someone with a disability would visit the shul, or that some time in the future a congregant is disabled. The lower bimah was built because we have members with disabilities and the congregation felt a strong need to insure that the Torah was accessible to all of our members.

Likewise, B'nai Amoona's Men's Club has a reputation for addressing tough issues. Because mental health issues are stigmatized, this two-part HMV presentation was, perhaps, the toughest topic we had ever presented. However, it was the best attended, and the discussion was the most impassioned and open discussion to-date.

Further, each member at the session had a story to tell of their personal experiences either with family members or about themselves regarding mental health issues.

In the next section, I will upload the talking points and questions for the sessions.

Page 2

Self Assessment
This program had a meaningful impact not only on the Hearing Men’s Voices “regulars,” but also on our club in general, and on our entire synagogue. Those that attended the multi-session discussion learned and shared a lot of personal stories about how mental health issues have impacted them directly and indirectly. It created an awareness of the struggles many people have with not only their own mental health, but also that of people close to them. It also gave a perspective to those that do not deal with such issues on an everyday basis to realize how many people are impacted by them and helped to create a new awareness which was shared with people that did not attend the sessions. The objective was to remove some of the stigmas associated with mental health issues in the community, and we felt that while there is still much work to be done, this helped us down that path.

We realized that mental health issues were “taboo” in our community and we felt they should not be. We also thought the Hearing Men’s Voices framework (which already very much involves Jewish Men in Jewish Life) would be perfect to address the issue. Therefore, we created a new topic for discussion, not only involving Jewish Men in Jewish Life (which HMV already does), but with an eye towards removing the negative connotations of mental health problems. This program demonstrated our club’s leadership in taking such a subject and bringing it to the forefront for discussion over multiple sessions. We believe that this approach to this topic was innovative and more importantly, was a successful step towards our goal of removing the stigma associated with mental health issues in the community.
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