Over half of under 25-year-olds in the Jewish community say they are living with mental illness, distress, or trauma according to new research.
Data collected by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research revealed that 55 per cent of this age group were suffering in some way with their mental health or had been in the three months prior to the study
The research also showed that 26 per cent of Jews of all ages said they were living with mental illness, distress or trauma.
Of 4,053 people surveyed by JPR, as part of a wider study on identity, between November and December 2022, 87.3 percent answered questions relating to mental health.
The results were gathered in response to the question “Have you or has anyone close to you experienced mental illness, distress, or trauma in the last three months?”
Jewish people under the age of 25 are suffering with their mental health (Photo: iStock)
According to the latest research by mental health charity Mind, 31 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the general population reported some evidence of depression or anxiety.
The findings of the JPR research have prompted over 50 Jewish doctor to issue an emergency call to the community to support mental health charity Jami.
Psychiatrist Dr Abigail Swerdlow (Photo: copyright unknown)
In an open letter published in the JC, Jewish psychiatrists and doctors issued a warning about the “significant increase in the scale and gravity of mental illness and distress” within the Jewish community.
“None of us can afford to ignore these stark statistics,” the letter warns.
“These difficulties can affect every facet of life - from thoughts and emotions to family and social connections, to financial stability. They can eradicate hope of a brighter future.”
Signatories of the letter issued a plea to the community to invest in Jami.
“Investing in supporting mental health isn’t a luxury. If we are to consider ourselves a kind and just community, it’s a must,” the letter said.
Jami currently supports over 1,650 people in the Jewish community whose mental illness and distress makes everyday life a struggle.
The charity, which said demand for its adult services is at a record high, is planning to expand its children and young person’s service in response to the data.
Dr Abigail Swerdlow, psychiatrist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Jami trustee, who is a signatory of the open letter, said: “I and many of my peers in the Jewish community felt compelled to raise awareness about the prevalence of mental illness and distress among Jewish young people and adults.
“Many of us are aware that our mental health services are struggling with the increasing demand and complexity.”
Dr Swerdlow said: “It is of the utmost importance that help is provided to those who need it, in a timely manner.”
Former chair of the Royal Society for Public Health, Dr Fiona Sim, who also signed the letter, said community-based services like Jami needed to be “bolstered significantly and urgently”.
Dr Fiona Sim is calling for the community to support our mental health services
She said: “The demand for scarce specialist NHS clinical services has become unsustainably high.”
Co-signatory Dr Amy Jebreel, who is consultant psychiatrist at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, said she “wholeheartedly believes” that Jami was the “primary” solution to the mental health crisis impacting young people.
She said: “As a community we must rally behind Jami so that our children, our family, our friends and others impacted by mental health difficulties get the support they need.”
Laurie Rackind, chief executive of Jami, said Covid had “exacerbated an existing mental health emergency in our community”.
Speaking to the JC, he said: “Unlike Covid, there is no vaccine for mental illness and distress. Addressing our community’s mental health challenge will require a long-term, collective effort.
“We are calling on those who are able to do so, to get behind Jami as generously as possible to ensure we can continue to provide vitally needed services for children, young people and adults.”
Louise Kermode, director of services at Jami, thanked Jewish psychiatrists for raising the alarm.
She said a Jewish charity response was important because “it offers daily connection with others, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of trust because of its cultural understanding and focus on peer support”.
Alison Blackman said Jami had been "a lifeline" to her and her 14-year-old child, who identifies as a boy and is waiting for a referral to a gender identity clinic, as well as an autism assessment.
“The statistics don’t surprise me at all. Since Covid, we have been dealing with my son transitioning to be male. We have found there no services for young people who need support now.
“We have been told it is a three-year waiting list to be seen at a gender clinic and we have been told we need to wait a year for the autism assessment. In the meantime, I found out that my son was self-harming.”
She said Jami provide both her and her son with therapists, which gave them both “a lifeline", adding: "He was refusing school before, but this year, I have managed to get him into school every day.”
She said her younger twins, now eight, had been experiencing anxiety post-Covid.
“I think the little ones have really struggled going back to school and being in that environment. They were younger when Covid happened, and I suppose had the fear and knowledge that there was a virus that could potentially kill them or their family.
“I speak to other parents of kids that age and the anxiety around being in school and that environment is something a lot of people are experiencing. I think it has been hard on them.”