JFS continues mission for mental health and wellness

by | Apr 7, 2022 | Trending News

Support is urgently needed.

Throughout the past year, Jewish Family Service, in partnership with United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, has been highlighting the importance of mental health and wellness through a series of events. These events are part of JFS’ 18th Annual Spring Into Healthy Living activities, and culminate in a race at the 31st Street Park on the Virginia Beach Ocean Front on Sunday, May 1.

Events have focused on actions the community can take to help eradicate stigma around seeking mental health support, and in connecting the community to available resources. To ensure that education around topics of mental health and wellness are in the forefront of conversations, JFS recently hosted two events: Becoming Stress Resistant, and From Longing to Belonging.

Becoming Stress Resistant focused on learning techniques to be mindful of the ways in which stress impacts mental health and wellness.

“None of us are immune to the effects of stress,” says Kelly Burroughs, JFS CEO and facilitator of the event. “It is how we recognize and interact with this stress that can become either helpful or harmful.”

The past two years of social isolation has led to increased numbers of people who report feeling depressed, anxious, and suicidal, and these are now further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

“These events are not just distractions. They have very real physiological and psychological changes to our bodies and our brains,” says Burroughs. She cites one study that claims loneliness has the same ill health effects of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Tips for ‘Becoming Stress Resistant’ include first recognizing the signs of stress and being able to correctly pinpoint the underlying emotion. “We have a tendency to say that we are either ‘fine’ or ‘frustrated,’” says Burroughs, “but in reality, we are hurt, disappointed, scared, and anxious. Once we can recognize and label these underlying emotions, we are better able to deal with the root cause of our stress.” This training was provided free of charge, and is available for the community.

Contact Kelly Burroughs at 321-2244 to learn more about bringing this training to an organization or group.

On Wednesday, March 9, JFS hosted author and advocate Shelly Christensen, MA, FAAIDD, for the event, We All Belong: Including and Supporting Jewish Adults with Disabilities and Mental Illness into our Communities. Christensen spoke of her own experiences in the Jewish community having a son with disabilities and of her struggles in the school system. Her sense of being welcomed and supported in her synagogue led her on her path to being a leader in the Jewish disability inclusion movement.

Christensen has more than 20 years of experience working with local, national, and international organizations on the topic of inclusion, and co-founded Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month (JDAIM) in 2009. Through Inclusion Innovations, Christensen provides consulting, keynote speaking, and training to Jewish and interfaith organizations.

Rabbi Michael Panitz’s D’Var Torah underscored the comments made later by Christensen. “The longing to belong is something that we ought to prize and treasure. When we worry that children regard an age 13 ceremony as an exit ticket because it’s a capstone experience they finish, we wonder what could we have done differently so that you would long to belong? Let’s recognize that those that long to belong can teach us all a tremendous amount. Let’s honor them, let’s welcome them, let’s learn from them…and remember that what makes us alike is not a matter of abilities…. It’s not our abilities. It is something much more fundamental—the image of G-d that is undiminished and bright in every one of us whether we are able in this way, that way, or in a different way.”

Christensen’s passion was evident as she delved into the ways people are the same and not different. “Each person needs to find their purpose and make ways to get there, remembering its ok to fail.” She has seen how people with disabilities can be made to feel ostracized or shown attention for the wrong reasons, emphasizing that “people with disabilities should not be a mitzvah project.”

Christensen’s book, From Longing to Belonging can serve as a resource for organizations to further their inclusion of everyone in the Jewish community. She is also working with Gabrielle Kaplan Mayer on a new podcast, Stories of Belonging—The intersection of Faith, Disability and Mental Health. Information about purchasing the book and the podcast can be found on her website, inclusioninnovations.com

Support JFS

JFS seeks sponsorship support for these ongoing events. “We have been greatly impacted by the COVID pandemic. We have been unable to hold fundraising events for the past two years and are woefully short on our annual campaign goal,” says Kelly Burroughs, JFS CEO. These funds are used to help support all the JFS mission based programs, such as Meals on Wheels, food pantries, Jewish Financial Assistance, the Holocaust Survivors program and as subsidies for Jewish individuals and families that cannot afford counseling and home care.

“We encourage the community to support these efforts through sponsorships and to participate in the 18th Annual Run, Roll or Stroll event,” says Burroughs.

For more information, contact Brooke Rush at 321-2238 or Kelly Burroughs at 321-2244.

JFS Staff