PHOTOS: Portland Clinical Psychologist Dr. Leah Katz, left, wants to end the stigma of mental illness. Adam Nemer, right, is launching a leadership consulting firm to help businesses reduce the human and organizational cost of mental illness.
Resources for mental health
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a tradition dating back to 1949. The annual observance raises awareness about mental illness. This year’s theme is “Together for Mental Health.” Together, we can create a nation where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.
Following are resources available in the Jewish community locally and online.
JEWISH FAMILY & CHILD SERVICE
JFCS’ Counseling program provides compassionate, person-centered, trauma-informed mental health services to children, teens, adults, couples and families facing life’s challenges. JFCS prioritizes support based on trust, empathy and understanding to ensure clients feel safe, empowered and able to make progress toward their goals. You can access JFCS counseling at:
• JFCS, 1221 SW Yamhill St., Ste.301, Portland, 9 am-5 pm, Mon.-Thurs., 9 am-2 pm, Fri.
• Eastside Jewish Commons, 2420 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, 9 am-7 pm Tue.
• Telehealth, Zoom or phone, during JFCS hours.
For more information, visit jfcs-portland.org/services/counseling/, call the intake line at 503-226-7079, ext. 100, or submit a request online at jfcs-portland.org/get-help.
BLUE DOVE FOUNDATION
Blue Dove Foundation, a national resource for the Jewish community, is dedicated to education and de-stigmatization around mental health and addiction. Blue Dove provides resources about mental illness and addiction through a Jewish lens. We are closer than ever to eradicating the shame and stigma that have stopped so many from talking about mental health and seeking help when they need it, but we need your support.
Learn more at thebluedovefoundation.org
BEWELL: Helping Teens and Young Adults Thrive
This new website focuses on teen and young adult mental health. The Jewish community is dedicated to promoting the well-being of young people. With BeWell, you will find support and tools to respond to the growing mental health concerns of young people aged 12 to 26, and resources for parents, caregivers and Jewish professionals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns of an accelerating mental health crisis, with more than 4 in 10 teens reporting that they feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” and 1 in 5 saying they have contemplated suicide. The Jewish community is mobilizing to create the support young people need as they face challenging moments.
HereNow is a teen-led online and in-person initiative promoting mental health, well-being and resilience through innovative content and creativity, in partnership with the Jewish Board. The app is a place for teens to read stories (written by the teens and the professional team), make comments, post and ask questions. Download the app in Google Play or the App Store. Find HereNow on Instagram or Facebook.
For people who live with and work with teens, the HereNow website showcases both teen and professional writing and has resources: ProjectHereNow.org
Facebook group for mental health in the Jewish community: facebook.com/groups/2271312056499440
Institute for Jewish Spirituality: jewishspirituality.org
Or HaLev Jewish Spirituality & Meditation: orhalev.net
Mental health awareness month: End stigma
BY LEAH KATZ
The month of May marks National Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), around 450 million people worldwide are living with a mental illness, yet almost two-thirds of people with a known mental illness don’t seek treatment.
One purpose of Mental Health Awareness Month is to battle the stigma around mental illness and the stigma that still exists around receiving mental health treatment. Hopefully, by talking more about mental illness and mental well-being, we can start deconstructing the notion that struggling with mental health is something to be ashamed of. As the numbers show, struggling with mental health isn’t the anomaly. Just like we don’t hesitate to talk about physical illness, the hope is that we can get to the same point in destigmatizing the conversation around mental health and wellness.
Mental Health Awareness Month is more relevant than ever this year. We are still managing Covid, and there have been dramatic hits to our collective mental health as a result of going through this global trauma. Rates of depression and anxiety are significantly elevated across all age groups. In an article released in March 2022, the World Health Organization reported that in the first year of the pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a whopping 25 percent. Younger people and women were found to be more vulnerable to increased risk to their mental health in this report.
These statistics are sobering. What can we do with this knowledge to aid in the efforts of supporting those who are struggling?
Pause here for a moment, given all that you have likely been through these last couple of years, and use that moment first to check in with yourself and then with those around you. How are you doing? I like the three-way check-in – like a triangle – where you check in with your thoughts, your emotions and your body sensations. This is an excellent, quick idea for taking your mental health pulse and then dealing with what you find. If you’re struggling in some way, take the time to take care of yourself and your mental health. Talk to someone supportive, make sure you are taking the time to process your stress and rest. Just because we are in a challenging time (still!) doesn’t mean we should take hard feelings and thoughts for granted. There are things you can do to get support and process the hard stuff.
You might also want to take a moment and check in with the people around you. Oftentimes, people struggle silently, and there is a good chance that some of the people around you are, as well. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, send them a text (if you have the wherewithal). One of the most powerful factors in getting through hard times is knowing you have social support, knowing you are not alone. One of the most special things about being a part of the Jewish community is how it provides this sense of belonging. We can capitalize on the built-in sense of community that comes with sharing the common thread of being Jewish to ease loneliness.
I recently published my first book and heard from different people on my publishing team how neat it was that I was part of the Jewish tribe, and how their experiences with people in the Jewish community have always stood out to them because of how supportive our community seems from the outside. I heard their reflections with pride – but also with the knowledge that indeed one of the most beautiful things about being Jewish is how it gives you an automatic sense of belonging.
If you’re struggling and feeling alone, there are local Jewish organizations that you can reach out to. Jewish Family & Child Service is one such local mental health organization.
We are seeing a lot of burnout right now, as well. If you are feeling burned out, or concerned you are heading there, first and foremost remind yourself that there is no shame in experiencing burnout. This is the feeling that comes from pushing ourselves too long and too hard without taking the time to process our stress.
Another good three-way check in for processing your stress is asking yourself how are you eating, sleeping and moving your body. Making sure we are on top of these three basic self-care items helps us to destress on a daily basis.
It is precisely in the times when we are most likely to throw stress-processing and self-care out the window (because we are too busy or overwhelmed) that we need it the most. Taking care of yourself in this way is not only good for your mental health, but provides important modeling for the people around you. In case you need a little extra motivation to check in with your mental health, here it is: parents, bosses, rabbis – modeling what it looks like to take care of yourself will go a long way not only for yourselves, but for the people observing you, too.
Leah Katz, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist practicing in Portland. She specializes in working with teenagers and adults with anxiety and depression. Leah is a member of Congregation Ahavath Achim and a member of the Wexner 2021 Portland cohort. She is also a contributing blogger for PsychologyToday.com.
Dr. Katz just released her first book, Gutsy: Mindfulness Practices for Everyday Bravery, which is available on Amazon and all other major book retailers and at local bookstores.
Reducing the human and organizational costs of mental illness
BY DEBORAH MOON
During Mental Health Awareness Month, Portland native Adam Nemer returned to his hometown to promote the consulting firm he created to help businesses deal with the human and organizational costs of mental illness in the workforce.
reveal 20 percent of people suffer from depression, anxiety or another diagnosable mental issue at any given time. Nemer has both a personal and a corporate understanding of the toll that takes.
Nemer left a 19-year career at Kaiser Permanente, including a decade as CFO of Kaiser’s Sunnyside Hospital, to start Simple Mental Health Leadership Consulting, which launches Aug. 1. The company will be headquartered in Atlanta, where a major hub airport offers easy access nationwide.
As a hospital executive, he saw the absenteeism and lower-than-expected performance among employees. “Every business in America has this problem, but they don’t want to talk about it.”
Nemer’s father committed suicide in 1999. For the next 18 years, the stigma of mental illness and suicide plagued Nemer.
“I was so ill and didn’t know it,” he says, noting he thought the way he felt “is just what life feels like.”
“As I became aware of my depression, anxiety and panic, I started talking across Kaiser Permanente about my experiences and learnings as an executive who had undiagnosed mental illness,” he says. “As a senior executive, I was probably at 20 percent of what I could have been.”
Nemer says the solution to easing employee pain and increasing productivity is simple. Mental Health First Aid should be added to annual training programs alongside first aid and CPR.
“Recovery is possible,” Nemer says. “Conventional therapies work. It’s not like we’re waiting for a cure. We know exactly what to do to help folks. But we’ve become paralyzed as a society from the stigma, myths, shame and silence of mental illness.”
As a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Nemer teaches business leaders how to recognize mental illness, how to approach employees in a nonjudgmental manner, and how to provide hope and reassurance.
“The steps to help employees are so easy,” Nemer says. “The problem is the stigma. Studies show people don’t get help because of the stigma … Stigma is a lack of understanding and education.”
But the dark cloud of the Covid pandemic, which has significantly increased stress, depression and anxiety, also has a silver lining.
“Attitudes changed during Covid,” Nemer says. “The conversation with business owners now is a different conversation than five years ago.”
So Nemer left his job to found Simple Mental Health Leadership Consulting “to improve productivity, retention and employee satisfaction by creating stigma-free mental health cultures … increased organizational performance and personal wellness at the same time.”
Simple Mental Health will offer keynote talks and business consulting that include mental health first aid training and leadership coaching to help businesses transform their culture.
Earlier this month, Nemer worked with Video Narratives, a Portland production company, to create a short promotional video to explain his vision. To view the video and for more information, visit the company’s website at simplementalhealth.co.