Mental Health Awareness Month (Rabbi Shalhevet)

Rabbi Jaimee ShalhevetAlmost everything I see these days is telling me that time is running out. The school superintendent is sending emails such as “it’s hard to believe there’s only 6 more weeks of the school year!” The principal is sending messages saying “hurry to buy those black dress slacks for the end of the year concert! Only 19 more days to go!” Summer camp is reminding me to fill out my forms because “camp starts in only 60 days!”

Advertisements on television, radio, and the internet are all urging me to “lock in now, before prices go up!” or “Buy now, only a few more left in stock!” Of course, then I rush to sign onto my Amazon account to order whatever the item is only to find out that it won’t ship to me in time for whatever I need it for even though I have Amazon Prime. So then I race to the physical store – a rare occasion in these past two years for so many of us – only to find that they have no stock due to shipping delays and production delays worldwide.
Is there any surprise that our country finds itself in a mental health crisis – specifically anxiety disorders? Now, there is a difference for sure, between feeling anxious or nervous about something and actually suffering from an anxiety disorder, but the symptoms in the moment can be alarmingly similar. And if those nervous or anxious moments are forced upon anyone for enough times, the weight can become unbearable. Our country, as a whole, is suffering. And we are both the victim and the assailant.

It’s an age old method. News reporters will tell you that tragedy, drama, and blood sells. The winner of the national spelling bee, or the idea that the weather was sunny again with enough drizzle to perfectly water the daffodils, does not. And while it might be true, it doesn’t make it healthy. It doesn’t make it helpful. And it doesn’t make it right.

Now, I don’t think that this bulletin article or any changes that it may inspire anyone to make, will even begin to make a dent in our country-wide culture of preying on “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). I cannot hope to make an impact as strong as that. But, I do hope that this can touch one person in one way or another.

What do I mean by that? What then, is my message?
My message, my plea, is simple. Be aware of the other. Tactics aimed at using and abusing someone else’s fears or insecurities, is not only unethical, but it is hurtful and unacceptable as well. Another person’s weakness is not yours to exploit for your own gain, either personal or business. On the flipside, do not feel compelled to take on anyone else’s anxiety. Now, this is much easier said than done. And for those in our community with mental health struggles, it is a daily battle that wages constantly. If you do not suffer from a disorder, but you find yourself having difficulty coping with something, please take a moment to stop and breathe. Try self-talk, meditation, or simply to close your eyes at that moment and slow things down. If you feel that you have an anxiety disorder – if your anxiety begins to interfere with your everyday life, please see a professional. My door (zoom, in person, phone, or otherwise) is always open and I am happy to listen, help if I can, and refer you when necessary, to someone who can help you. You are NOT alone.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but mental health is a lifelong commitment. Please don’t stay silent if you are suffering. Call me in the office at extension 111 or on my cell phone at 516-330-0667. I’m here for you.