Mental Illness Awareness In The Orthodox Jewish Community

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Mental Illness affects up to 20% of the population, and so many more when you consider the impact on families. While there is always room for improvement, particularly where stigma is concerned, Orthodox Jews have come a long way in terms of acceptance and care for those who suffer from Depression, Anxiety, OC(P)D, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, ADHD, Schizophrenia, Abuse, Addiction and more. The frum community is not only fully invested in cutting-edge referral networks and state-of-the-art care, but support from the ground up. The majority of people in the United States who have mental health disorders do not seek help at all. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, less than 25% of those with a mental illness have adequate treatment. While many in the Orthodox world are not aware of these services and would be thrilled to connect with and benefit from them (see our comprehensive list at the bottom for contact information), thousands of frum Jews are helped daily by an incredible network of caring individuals and thoughtful organizations.

Rabbi Binyomin Babad is the director of RELIEF, the premier frum referral network for mental health services. They not only keep a database that tracks different doctors, therapists, resources and more worldwide, they also follow up, maintaining a relationship with all practitioners. “We get many calls from the secular community that they would love to have such a service for the general population because there is nothing like that that exists in the secular world.” With up to 800 new calls for referrals every month, Babad notes that they haven’t advertised in seven years. “Rabbonim refer people to us in huge numbers…but there is a mix between that and individuals calling us at a breakneck pace.” On why there is such a market for the service, he notes, “People want to solve the problem and take care of it right away, especially with children. 40% of our clients are 18 and under, 60% under age 25.” For everything from eating disorders to panic attacks, they are the first stop for many a concerned parent or loved one. “When they call us, they don’t know what’s going on. Our job is to help figure out who to get them to.” He says that the success of the organization has nothing to do with the organization itself. “The Jewish community places a real value on life. We don’t take credit. It’s because people want help.” Although other medical referral services exist, none specialize in mental health as RELIEF does. Babad warns that therapists can have a profound effect on a person’s well-being, so he makes it RELIEF’s mission to personally research, interview and monitor all to whom they refer. “Some are gems and you see what a difference they can make in people’s lives.” The organization saw 8500 new patients in 2016 and additionally serviced 4500 previous patients, between their eight offices in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Toronto, Israel, the UK and LA.

One of the top destinations for mental health treatment is the Center for Anxiety, a comprehensive treatment center for Anxiety, Depression and many other mental illnesses with locations in Manhattan, Boston, Brooklyn and Monsey. Its dynamic Founder / Director, Dr. David Rosmarin, is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and along with a high level of medical and psychological expertise, approaches his team’s treatment programs with a spiritual focus. “When we started out, I was a solo practitioner with a vision…to advance the state of mental health care in the Jewish Community. I can do with a lot of people’s help, and with Hashem’s help.” Despite naysayers telling Rosmarin that his approach would face the challenge of stigma, the result has been the opposite. 40-50% of CFA’s patients have OCD, and for half of those, it manifests religiously. With close to 400 patients a year, Rosmarin says that 30% of their patients aren’t religious or even Jewish, but prefer a spiritual approach to their treatment, at which CFA excels. “We provide a unique standard of care…people want to get the best care that they can.” CFA estimates that 97% of their patients “experienced clinically significant reduction in their symptoms by the end of treatment, often after just several sessions.” With treatments such as Parent Child Interaction Training, the effective Connections Program (which is based on the teachings of Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l), and a highly-sought-after intensive outpatient program, Rosmarin provides real-time feedback to therapists to tailor treatment. “We provide a unique benefit to the community with a uniquely high level of service.”

Multifaceted crisis-management organization Amudim helps victims of sexual abuse, addiction and mental illness. Its Director, Rabbi Zvi Gluck, shares his highly sought-after perspective. “Therapy and mental health is how we treat addicts and abuse victims. Our main focus is crisis intervention and case management. We contact the family and help them to mobilize their plans, get right treatment and hold their hands through the process.” While sometimes Amudim’s focus is on the parents, schools and community at large to help with awareness and destigmatization, often they are helping the individual in crisis directly, acting as their case manager throughout the process. “We are the glue that helps the pieces stick together as the puzzle is being put back together.” Without people reaching out though, they don’t have a job to do. People can’t be afraid to reach out, and that only comes through education. “Drug Addicts are not bad, they are suffering. If you know someone who needs help don’t be shy to ask or offer it.”

These programs and services are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the resources available. While there is stigma against mental illness in every community, many people are working to normalize it within the frum community. As this occurs, hope and help for those suffering will continue to increase. Gluck relates, “Overall, there is tremendous progress, [but] there is still a lot more to be done. In our community there is still a cloak of shame and denial. [Through] awareness programming, we need to shatter the stigma, for people to understand that things happen and we are there for them no matter what. [Mental Health] needs to be a topic of conversation in every household, every shul rabbi speaking about it, every school discussing it.” Rosmarin adds, “The community is embracing a different way of doing treatment. People realize you do the treatment and you get on with your life. They might have a booster session. But on the whole they don’t.” Babad concludes, “There’s a stigma against mental health in the regular world too. In the frum community, people are willing to deal with this head on. The teachers and schools are coming forward if they have a problem they are going to address it…I once heard this from a non-Jewish psychiatrist who says he likes working with Orthodox Jews more because he can help them more. They are not an island unto themselves. They have real strength.”

List of Mental Health Resources

(No individual practitioners or agencies are listed, nor are any services endorsed by Jew in the City. Please do your own research.)

Referrals / Resources / Education / Helplines

Relief Resources


Yad Rachel (Post-Partum Disorders)

Project Ometz (Troubled Youth with Mental Illness)

Project Tikva at Aleph Institute (Troubled Youth with Mental Illness)

No Shame on U (Destigmatization, Education, Awareness)


MiYad Jewish Helpline
0800 652 9249

ShemaKoli (Abuse)

Frum Support (Forums)


Treatment Centers

Center for Anxiety
Phone: 888-837-7473

Refuat Hanefesh

Counterforce (Children & Families via Torah U’Mesorah)


Chabad Lifeline

Torah and the Twelve Steps


Monsey Family Medical Center (also known as Project Ohr)


The Living Room / Our Place

Center for Applied Psychology (CAPs) at Bikur Cholim


Refuah Community Health Collaborative

Peer-Led Groups




Professional-Led Groups


Yad b’Yad (Lakewood)


In Israel

Enosh – The Israeli Mental Health Association

Nitza (Post-partum Depression)

Retorno (Jewish Rehab Center)

Family Institute at Neve Yerushalayim

Hakshiva Beit Shemesh

Machon Shiluv

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