A local rabbi has taken a definitive step toward safeguarding his flock’s mental health.
Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld, who founded and heads Chabad Young Professionals of Pittsburgh, recently completed a mental health first aid training course offered online by Jewish Family Services (JFS) Houston and Chabad of Uptown Houston.
The course, which Rosenfeld took along with about 25 other rabbis, taught how to spot the signs of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and more, Rosenfeld said. He stressed that he is “not trained to treat these disorders. That can be done only by a licensed social worker/therapist/doctor. I am trained in how to recognize symptoms and support those with mental health struggles, which includes directing them to the proper professionals.”
The impulse to take the first-aid course came “from a recognition that something has to be done,” Rosenfeld told the Chronicle. “It was about recognizing the need to do something about this mounting crisis. Though society has made great strides, there’s so much more work left to do.”
Mental health disorders account for several of the top causes of disability in established market economies — in the U.S. and worldwide — and include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, which falls under the National Institutes of Health, estimate that 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 18 “suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.”
As a community rabbi, Rosenfeld is often the first line of defense for someone struggling with mental health issues or related problems, he said, comparing his role for area Jews to that of a first responder.
Rosenfeld said he was fortunate to hear about the course, which was conducted virtually due to COVID-19. The course was led by a rabbi and a social worker from JFS Houston.
Rosenfeld said that the mental health first aid course is a program he’d love to develop or see developed in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
“It’s definitely something I feel our community could benefit from,” Rosenfeld said. “It is on us to better spread awareness.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.