Resource Type: Articles

Imagine for a moment you live with depression. It is not a family member or loved one who has depression — you are the patient. You are suffering. You are in so much pain and your brain is so ill, you have thoughts of suicide. Next, consider the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: We are commanded to “choose life.” Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedakah, repentance, prayer and charity, are your ticket to the Book of Life for another year.
Imagine how the Jewish people may have felt following their departure from Egypt. Exhausted but hopeful, carrying the heavy burden of generations of physical and emotional pain, having experienced unbelievable miracles, it is likely that they were in some state of shock. The transition from the agony of slavery and oppression to a state of freedom and possibility was almost certainly too hard to process immediately. Instead, as they journeyed through the desert, the fledgling Jewish nation may have struggled with the overpowering feelings and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on the fast of Yom Kippur, it is sealed. . . This piyyut (liturgical poetry), the Un’taneh Tokef, is perhaps the most famous of all the liturgy of the Yamim Nora’im/Days of Awe. It tells of how our fates for the coming year will be written in the Book of Life. That book, we are told, is opened during the High Holy Days, and we read it together with G-d. What is written? Our lives. We look back at pages we have embossed with our deeds and misdeeds, active and passive. And we ask G-d to help us write a better page next year. For G-d to help us cope with all the hardships and blessings that come our way: flood, famine, plague, restlessness. To write us for life, for a good life.
Rosh Hashanah is an exciting time of year. It’s a chance to reflect on our past and set our intentions and goals for our future. This opportunity for growth and achievement can be thrilling. But for people who didn’t think they would make it to the new year — because they were struggling with suicidal ideation, survived an attempted suicide, or went through a traumatic experience that left them emotionally drained — entering the synagogue and facing the prospect of a new year can be overwhelming. In those moments that feel daunting, we need to reorient ourselves, breathe, and pause. In other words, we need Rosh Hashanah.
For most adults, these are uncomfortable but benign practices whose pain is quickly forgotten when the fast is over. Unfortunately, the experience of fasting can be much more challenging for someone struggling with disordered eating...
Personal responsibilities and mental wellness may seem like different conversations. After all, the world is seeing record levels of burnout, anxiety and exhaustion — partially resulting from our overwhelming lifestyles, neverending to-do lists and unforgiving schedules. So how could adding more responsibilities improve things? How could having additional duties benefit our mental health?