Shanda: There is none

Rabbi James Stone Goodman leads Congregation Neve Shalom, a member of the Network of Jewish Renewal Communities.

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

Shanda means shame. We are doing programs about mental illness, and the implied notion of mental health, designed to break the shanda barrier. The shanda barrier is broken first by talk, talk, and more talk. At this time in our story as a people, the shanda barrier is an obstacle to mental health.

Our next program, sponsored by JAMI, Jewish Attention to Mental Illness-Mental Health, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, at the Jewish Federation Building, 12 Millstone Campus Drive. 

There is help. We begin by opening the door onto talking about it. Sometimes people need to begin with a safe place to listen and trust. A person might need to come to listen, take away what works for them and leave the rest. 

Six years ago I started organizing these programs. I realized that problems associated with mental illness are critical in our community. Last year I wrote the following pledge, and I took it:

1. I pledge to bring someone in. If I light a candle, I will share the light.

2. I will be a reminder in every way I can to my family, friends, and community: We have these problems, they are difficult, but there is no shame attached to them and we live in a Big Tent. 

3. We can live with our problems.

4. I pledge to break the shanda barrier, which means:

5. Talk, talk and more talk.

6. I pledge to remind my community that we are working our problems, that being secret may be part of the problem, therefore:

7. I will not practice aloneness. I will talk with somebody. I will pick up the telephone. 

The next community forum is called “Shanda: There Is None.” It’s about mental illness. My wife and I, Rabbi Susan Talve, will lead the session, along with a selection of friends who have been there.

Confidentiality, as always, will be carefully respected.