December 1, 2021
Imagine the first time you walked into your synagogue, your club meeting, or an FJMC event. As you walk into the building, there is a hum of people engaged in an activity. There are handouts, people milling about, some food and drink on a table nearby. People are interacting with each other with ease – handshakes and hugs abound – and people seem engaged with each other joyfully.
Now, imagine that you or someone you love has a significant mental illness or substance abuse problem. Try to imagine how you might enter that very same event. The same people, the same hum of activity… but you have something hidden. In order to get to the event, you had to make sure that “today was a good day” – a good day for you to leave your loved one behind – alone or with another caregiver.
You hear some in your community talk about jobs, children, grandchildren; traveling and vacations. You hear others asking about a friend’s bad back or how their child ended up with a cast on their arm. During services, you hear people voicing concern for individuals who have been hospitalized for acute illnesses – surgeries, cancer treatments… or other medical concerns.
But today you feel separate. Marginalized. Part of another group where mishebeyrach prayers and phone calls of support are less frequent. Perhaps they are less frequent because you don’t feel comfortable sharing the details of your day-to-day struggles and successes of having a loved with a mental illness. Perhaps they are less frequent because others don’t know how best to support you and your loved one.
THIS is what the Imagine Life initiative is all about.
For the past two years, the Imagine Life committee has been experimenting with programming and funding ideas to help communities discuss mental health issues openly, in the spirit of community support. We have developed programs where our friends and family can learn and discuss mental health stigma with the goal of decreasing and removing that stigma. We envision a world where where everyone can be included.
The new FJMC portal for the Imagine Life Initiative can be found here: https://www.fjmc.org/imagine . On this new web site, you can find five “ready to run” Imagine Life programs with one more on addictions coming soon.
Of course, if you have any questions or would like to discuss starting or maintaining a Mental Wellness program in your club, feel free to contact any of the FJMC Imagine Life committee members:
Gary S. Katz, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Gary Smith, D.V.M. (email@example.com)
Steven Mandel, M.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org)