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1 in 3 Israeli Jews would forgo psychological support due to stigma, poll finds

Health Ministry launches ‘precedent-setting’ national campaign to counter prejudice, but some experts say it has its priorities wrong and should be fixing the system instead.



Almost one in three Jewish Israelis say they would deny themselves mental health support because of embarrassment, shame and fear of negative social labeling, according to a new survey.

The poll, commissioned by the Health Ministry, questioned adults on whether they would seek professional mental health support in case of need. Some 30 percent replied that they wouldn’t, because of a perceived stigma.

The statistic has become the centerpiece of a new government campaign fighting the stigma associated with mental health challenges. Consisting of online videos and messages, the campaign is titled: “We are not ashamed, don’t be ashamed for us.”


“The health system shouldn’t only prioritize mental health care but also treat the serious stigma,” said Prof. Nachman Ash, the Health Ministry director-general. “This is a precedent-setting and sensitive campaign that was produced in full cooperation with organizations that help in the treatment of people facing mental health challenges.”

Dr. Hila Hadas, CEO of Enosh–The Israeli Mental Health Association, which helped to shape the campaign, told The Times of Israel: “The first obstacle that those who face mental challenges encounter is the obstacle of shame.



“Even though one in four people will encounter mental challenges, some will take years to acknowledge the core of the problem. This campaign’s importance lies first of all in encouraging the people around us to not to avoid discussing their issues.”

The videos (Hebrew only) feature several people who briefly discuss their mental health. One is Tova Tamana, a 28-year-old who works in insurance and says she expects many people who know her to be surprised when they learn from the campaign that she lives with schizophrenia. She notes that it’s her significant “challenge” in life but it’s not what defines her.


Almost one in three Jewish Israelis say they would deny themselves mental health support because of embarrassment, shame and fear of negative social labeling, according to a new survey.

The poll, commissioned by the Health Ministry, questioned adults on whether they would seek professional mental health support in case of need. Some 30 percent replied that they wouldn’t, because of a perceived stigma.

The statistic has become the centerpiece of a new government campaign fighting the stigma associated with mental health challenges. Consisting of online videos and messages, the campaign is titled: “We are not ashamed, don’t be ashamed for us.”

“The health system shouldn’t only prioritize mental health care but also treat the serious stigma,” said Prof. Nachman Ash, the Health Ministry director-general. “This is a precedent-setting and sensitive campaign that was produced in full cooperation with organizations that help in the treatment of people facing mental health challenges.”

Dr. Hila Hadas, CEO of Enosh–The Israeli Mental Health Association, which helped to shape the campaign, told The Times of Israel: “The first obstacle that those who face mental challenges encounter is the obstacle of shame.

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“Even though one in four people will encounter mental challenges, some will take years to acknowledge the core of the problem. This campaign’s importance lies first of all in encouraging the people around us to not to avoid discussing their issues.”

The videos (Hebrew only) feature several people who briefly discuss their mental health. One is Tova Tamana, a 28-year-old who works in insurance and says she expects many people who know her to be surprised when they learn from the campaign that she lives with schizophrenia. She notes that it’s her significant “challenge” in life but it’s not what defines her.


There are short insights into interviewees’ lives to promote understanding. One, Omri Meridor, a 51-year-old company manager, says that he lives with bipolar disorder — which he refers to by its previous name, manic depression — and explains that simply leaving the house can take up to an hour and a half of mental preparation.

The campaign aims to reassure those who may benefit from seeking help, and also improve the attitudes of wider society. Some 70% of the people surveyed said they would see a problem if expected to accept someone with mental challenges in a professional setting.


Some experts say that the campaign is off-key, as deep change in society isn’t possible without improvement of the infrastructure for mental health treatment.

“Israel really needs a campaign like this, but it is necessary to first make big changes within the mental health systems,” Prof. Carmit Katz of Tel Aviv University’s School of Social Work told The Times of Israel. “Spotlighting the attitudes of the public when, for now, it’s the system itself that really needs to change is missing the point.”

She said that the mental health system today lacks both capacity to quickly help all who are in need and the leadership needed to help the public counter stigmas.

The Health Ministry has said that the campaign is part of a wider package of changes, but hasn’t promised the kind of wide-scale overhaul of mental health provision that the likes of Katz wants to see.

Dr. Tal Bergman, head of Mental Health Services at the Health Ministry, said that the campaign is “the first step in a series of steps that must be made to bring the mental health system to a high public priority.”

article by: By NATHAN JEFFAY


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