Chief Rabbi pained enormously by 'stupid stigma' around mental health

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke with campaigner Jonny Benjamin MBE about the subject over Zoom


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said the “stupid stigma” around mental health pains him enormously.

In a Zoom conversation with campaigner Jonny Benjamin MBE, Rabbi Mirvis stressed the importance of discussing mental health during the current crisis.

He pointed out that many significant biblical characters, such as Jacob and King David, suffered from mental illness. “Therefore, we see that these issues go back in time all the way back to the beginning of time.”

This surprised Mr Benjamin, who said that at shul and his Jewish school, “we never talked about that”.

“The thing that I truly love about the Jewish community is the fact that we are amazing talkers and we are so sociable, and family and friends means so much to us,” Mr Benjamin told the Chief Rabbi.

“I just hope one day we get to the point where we can talk to each other about our bad week, month of mental health just as we can talk about our bad week, month of having a bad back.”

As for his own struggles, he recalled that he didn't want to “burden” those around him, that his issues were not “worthy” of others' attention. When he finally alerted family and friends, “I was only met with love and empathy”.

Being diagnosed with schizophrenia had led to suicidal thoughts. He said it was “so important” to start talking before things got to “the point of crisis.”

It was his therapist telling him, “it’s just the way your brain’s wired” that helped him begin to heal.

“We can be so hard on ourselves, especially when we are struggling,” he commented.

“People need to talk,” Rabbi Mirvis agreed. “Those who are suffering need to talk. Those around them need to talk. You should never fear talking.”

He believed that with many people not seeking help during the pandemic, once it was over, “we’re going to face an enormous crisis within our society”.

The importance of mental health charities was highlighted, including Jami, an organisation Rabbi Mirvis said the community was “blessed to have”.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive