Social Action

Houston JFS Mental Health First Aid Course by Judith P. Oppenheim

Over a recent period of 18 months, the Houston Jewish community saw 9 young adults between the ages of 18 and 36 die by suicide. In response, the Jewish Family Service Agency took the lead in dispelling the stigma associated with mental illness: providing information, education, and programming to talk about the issue.

A national survey determined that, over one year (2014), 18% of adult Americans dealt with a mental health problem. These include anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, eating disorder, bipolar, and schizophrenia. Symptoms can appear in the early teens and become full-blown by the mid-twenties. Early detection can avoid damage to the person’s education, early career, and future outlook.

Beginning last Fall, several all-day Mental Health First Aid Training sessions were offered to community volunteers, college students, interns, and congregational representatives (such as myself). The training material and manual promoted the “ALGEE” strategy for assessing (A) severity of mental health emergency; listen (L) without judging the person; give (G) assurance; encourage (E) the person to seek professional help; and, (E) encourage the person to look into self-help resources. As “first responders”, we were taught to observe, voice concern without dread or judgment, and to speak with confidence. Experienced Social Workers participating in the class demonstrated such helpfulness during the various role plays and scenarios posed by instructors.

If you are interested in attending a future course or would like to look over the list of non-profit mental health services in Harris County, contact Rabbi Schloss or me.