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Senior Reform rabbis call for government action on mental health

Reform Judaism Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference
From top to bottom: Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger; Louis Weinstock, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Natasha Devon MBE and Jonny Benjamin MBE; workshop participants. Photos: Reform Judaism and MART Photography- Tammy Kazhdan

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger, Senior Rabbi of West London Synagogue have both called on the Government to provide better mental health provision.

Speaking at Reform Judaism’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference, Rabbi Baroness Neuberger called for a multi-faith campaign for better mental health services saying: “this is a crying injustice; as a society we could and should do better”.

In her closing address, Rabbi Janner-Klausner echoed this call to action saying: “We need to campaign on mental health, to be bold and loud and look beyond our communities and campaign nationally – to name what’s not good enough such as the massive NHS waiting lists for mental health care but also to celebrate what’s good such as the prioritising of mental health by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who has made it a touchstone of his work.

“Let’s campaign for that policy, a clear governmental strategy with a budget to match that strategy”.

130 delegates attended the Conference which brought together experts in the field and community partners – care teams, educators, youth workers, leaders, council members and rabbis. Organisations represented included Jami, the Amy Winehouse Foundation, Keshet UK and CBT – Cake Before Therapy.

Keynote speeches were delivered by acclaimed mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Natasha Devon MBE; Louis Weinstock, Psychotherapist and Mark Harris, Outreach Manager, Central London Samaritans.

Workshops covered a wide variety of issues including self-care, grief and palliative care, drug and alcohol misuse, LGBT mental health, mindfulness and building resilience in children and young people.

Sharon Daniels, Reform Judaism’s Wellbeing and Inclusion Manager said: “Last year our Reform communities committed to building foundations of positive mental health as cornerstones of what we do. Since then, our Communities that Care Initiative Network has been exploring ways to make these opportunities more accessible to more people. I am so proud of the ground-breaking work Reform communities are doing in addressing this incredibly important issue”.

Participant Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen of Manchester Reform Synagogue said: “Being together, talking about mental health and wellbeing and hearing from inspirational activists in the field makes me feel secure in knowing that our future is bright. The stigma around mental health is shifting, our children are being gifted with a new language and understanding of themselves and our world. There is much to do but this day has energised and given me extra tools for my toolkit as a professional in our community”.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Conference was part of Reform Judaism’s Communities that Care Initiative and took place at West London Synagogue on Thursday 23 May.

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