Mental health has long been a prevalent issue in the college community, and following a memorial service at Northwestern University for a student who took her own life, it was felt that it was time to present it from a Jewish perspective.
“Mental-health issues have recently been a very important issue on campus,” said Matthew Renick, president of the Chabad student executive board. “It’s very important to many of us here.”
On Thursday Jan. 24, Rabbi Shais Taub, director of Jewish.tv, the multimedia portal of Chabad.org, addressed students from Northwestern at the Tanenbaum Chabad House on the topic “Getting Unstuck,” drawing a parallel between the Jewish Exodus from Egypt and recovering from depression.
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“When you are in a dark place,” said Taub, “you cannot always overcome it on your own because people have finite abilities.” But, he said, it is possible to find the help necessary to leave even the darkest places. “We didn’t walk out of Egypt,” he said, “we were taken out.” Taub told the students about the importance of being open to receiving G-d’s blessings, as well as to help from experienced professionals when faced with difficulties.
“It’s a flow from on high,” he said. “The one thing I have to do is be prepared to receive it.”
Students said they found the talk to be relevant and inspiring, resonating with their own experiences in college and filled with practical advice for moving forward, particularly in the wake of the recent tragedy on campus and the subsequent heightened awareness about mental illness.
Taub said the most important messages for young people who are struggling with life is to realize that “you are not alone. You are not abnormal. This is a regular part of life, and we all go through it on some level.” Otherwise, he added, you can be overcome by “this great fear of getting help or this feeling that the dark times will never be over."
As an informal support center for students in the area, the Tanenbaum Chabad House seeks to be a resource for students who are struggling. Zach Flanzman, a junior, told the Daily Northwestern: ““There’s a lot of flaws with the mental-health process and system here. Hopefully, people feel like anyone can come (to Chabad) if they need to.”
Whether a student is in need of warmth and friendship, spiritual counseling or encouragement to seek professional help, “this is a very, very timely topic,” said Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, director of the Tanenbaum Chabad House. “There is nothing more important in Judaism than being able to help someone else.”