Blog  NFTY-SW: Mental Health Awareness, Close to Home

NFTY-SW: Mental Health Awareness, Close to Home

By Daniel Sarna, NFTY-SW

Daniel at NFTY-SW LTIHaving known NFTY-SW Social Action Vice President Maddy Ginis for almost two years, and having been in her TYG while she was president, it was no surprise that she did a great job yet again at NFTY-SW LTI. The Action theme this year, “R’Fuat Hanefesh – Caring for the Soul: NFTY Addresses Mental Health” is not an easy topic to discuss in general and is not so easy for many of us to relate to, or so I thought. Although some of these disorders are experienced by those around us in our everyday lives, it can be pretty difficult for kids our age to grasp such intense realities. Maddy Ginis helped us do just that.

The program started out with our entire region watching a power point presentation together. The presentation was very simple. It was just a black background with white writing that shared many shocking facts. After the PowerPoint, Maddy asked various groups questions about our personal connection to the issues and asked us to stand up when something applied to our knowledge of certain disorders. Then we broke up into our TYGs and discussed a few illnesses in depth. We learned a lot of percentages about people affected by mental health disorders and onset ages associated with each one. After discussing each topic, we came back as a group to see how much we had learned. We spent close to an hour discussing and understanding many illnesses, and it was clear afterward how much NFTY-SW was able to share what we had retained.

Although we looked closely at a few illnesses, the part of the program that made the biggest impact on me came from the nondescript PowerPoint presentation at the beginning. One of the facts that was shown to us was that close to 500 NFTYites nationwide suffer from depression. When I first heard this I thought I had misheard or misunderstood the statement. I could not believe that people around me, who I always saw in positive enthusiastic situations, could be affected by something that was in a program we were learning about. This fact hit very close to me given that one of my favorite parts of NFTY events is seeing the joy and excitement from my peers. It may be very possible that some of these people are actually able to open up and enjoy things a little more at NFTY events even if they find themselves struggling with the issues we talked about. To me it is kind of ironic that a program at a NFTY event helped me see the reality that although NFTY is a fun place for us all to hang out with Jewish kids our age, what we learn about might not be as “far away” as we thought.

Daniel is a sophomore and is Social Action Vice President of his Temple Youth Group, TSTY. He resides in Arizona