By Jacob Blackstone, NFTY-SW Editor
At the beginning of this month, NFTY-SW once again came together for another amazing Winter Kallah. Throughout the weekend, we got to do more of everything we love about NFTY. We sang our hearts out at friendship circle and song session. We celebrated Shabbat as a community. We spent time with friends new and old. We participated in enriching and educational activities organized by our awesome Regional Board. The Bagel Bois performed their new hit single for everyone’s enjoyment. However, we also focused on more serious subject matter, such as suicide prevention and mental health. In Judaism, one of our most important tenets and mitzvot is to ensure the preservation of life and to bring light to a world that can seem dark at times. As the Talmud says,
“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. “
(Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5)
According to the CDC and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Every day, over 3,000 teens attempt suicide, and 1 in 25 will succeed. On a larger scale, around 123 people of any age commit suicide in the United States daily, or one about every 12 minutes. Those who identify as LGBT+ are also 3 times as likely to commit suicide. In a world covered with clouds, it can be difficult for many to find the sunshine in between, especially for teenagers, who are commonly overwhelmed by the pressures of school, social life, and several other factors.
At Winter Kallah, we explored ways we can promote and practice suicide prevention not only for our age group, but for all who might be struggling with depression and other mental health issues. We also had the privilege hearing from a speaker from Teen Lifeline, an anonymous 24/7 hotline for teens who may be fighting mental health issues, suicidal thoughts, or are just going through a rough time and need someone to talk to (602-248-8336 or 800-248-8336). Additionally, we learned several skills for helping ourselves and reaching out to others in need. We also participated in a “Color Run” around Temple Chai to raise awareness and raise funds for suicide prevention causes. One of the most important things we learned that day, however, was that saving a life does not always require extraordinary measures; it can be as simple as reaching out to someone in need and asking “How are you today?”
Nobody should ever feel like they are alone in this world and have nowhere to turn. As Jews, we take the value of human life seriously, and thus have an obligation to fulfill the commandment of Pikuach Nefesh – literally “saving the soul” – and reach out to someone that we know or feel is in need of help. On a communal scale, NFTY-SW and NFTY as a whole is committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for all who are involved and beyond. While we provide a kehillah kedoshah, a holy community, for Jewish teens and fun events to bring us closer together, we also provide resources for anyone who is going through a difficult time in their life, regardless of sexuality, age, religion, or race. Together, our community can further raise awareness of suicide prevention and its resources, and as a result potentially save an untold amount of lives.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, self harm, depression, anxiety, any other mental condition, or just need someone to talk to in a rough time, you are not alone.
All services are toll-free, confidential, and 24/7
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or online chat
Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741
Teen Lifeline: 602-248-8336 or 800-248-8336
Trevor Project (LGBT+): 866-488-7386
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
S.A.F.E (Self harm): 1-800-334-4357