Mental Health Awareness Month Resources

Resource topics:

As we honor Mental Health Awareness month, we know that the pandemic has harmed teen mental health, accelerating trends that were already alarming in the past decade.   A February 2023 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that: 

  • 44% of teens reported feeling persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness—including 57% of teen girls and 69% of LGBTQ+ teens.  
  • 22% of teens report contemplating suicide—including more than 30% of teen girls and 45% of LGBTQ+ teens 

At Moving Traditions, we seek to enhance teens’ sense of connection—to themselves, to their peers, to mentor adults, and to their Jewish community—as the same studies that identify these alarming numbers also point to the connection and support as powerful protective factors to help stem these trends.

Teens who participate in our Teen Groups (Rosh Hodesh for Teen Girls, Shevet for Teen Boys, and Tzelem for LGBTQ, Nonbinary, and Gender Expansive Teens) build powerful, supportive connections. 90% of the teens in our groups report “I found a place where I can be myself and feel supported for who I am” and “I feel supported in my mental, emotional, social and/or spiritual health needs by my group leader.”

We invite you to use the following excerpts from our curriculum to have conversations with the teens in your life about their mental health, what they need to nurture it, and where they can find support to do so.

Seeking and Accepting Help (from Tzelem curriculum)


Have you ever heard someone say “snap out of it” or “just get over it” to someone experiencing a tough mental health episode? If you’ve ever experienced depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, you know it’s not that simple! We often must get support and help from others.

The Talmud (ancient rabbinic commentary) shares a story that highlights this point:

(Source: Babylonian Talmud, tractate Berachot, page 5b)

Rabbi Yoḥanan’s student, Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba, fell ill. Rabbi Yoḥanan entered to visit him, and said to him: Is your suffering dear to you? Do you desire to be ill and afflicted? Rabbi Ḥiyya said to him: I welcome neither this suffering nor its reward. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: Give me your hand. Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba gave him his hand, and Rabbi Yoḥanan stood him up and restored him to health.

Similarly, Rabbi Yoḥanan fell ill. Rabbi Ḥanina entered to visit him, and said to him: Is your suffering dear to you? Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: I welcome neither this suffering nor its reward. Rabbi Ḥanina said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand, and Rabbi Ḥanina stood him up and restored him to health.

The Gemara asks: Why did Rabbi Yoḥanan wait for Rabbi Ḥanina to restore him to health? If he was able to heal his student, let Rabbi Yoḥanan stand himself up.

The Gemara answers, they say: A prisoner cannot generally free themself from prison, but depends on others to release them from their shackles. 

  • What are your reactions to this story?
  • What does this story make you think about in your own life?
  • Have you ever been in the position of Rabbi Yohanan who was able to heal others but could not heal himself?
  • What makes it hard to seek help from others?

As we just read about in the Talmud, even great rabbis need help from others sometimes. It can be really helpful to think about available services and resources when you’re doing relatively well, because it can be extremely hard to seek out when you’re in a difficult spot or crisis.

With your teen(s), compile a list of resources, people, and services to seek when they are in need of support.

Alternative way to use the Talmudic text

H. was ill. His teacher came to visit him and when he did he asked him this question: “Is your suffering dear to you? Do you want to stay sick?

(pause here and get some feedback. What do you think about this questions? How would you feel if you weren’t feeling well – physically, emotionally, or both and someone asked you that? Why might someone not want to be healed? Or not be ready to be healed? After some discussion say, now let’s see what happens next in our story).

Ḥ answered his teacher: I do not welcome this suffering or anything – even anything positive that may come from it.

(so what do you think about what H answers? What positive could come from suffering? Why do you think he adds that piece? Then continue..)

The teacher then said: “Give me your hand.”

H. gave him his hand and his teacher raised him up (this is understood to mean he got better).

How do you understand this story? What kind of sick do you think H. was? How you understand his healing at the end? Was it miraculous? Was he healed or just better than at the beginning of the story? Have you ever had an experience like  this? Consider acting it out to get deeper into the questions that arise.

Now say – the story actually continues with a second chapter.

A while later (or maybe before) the teacher whose name was Yohanan  got sick. One of his teachers came to visit him, and asked him the very same question: Is your suffering dear to you? He gave the same answer his student had given him: I don’t welcome this suffering or anything good that could come from it. His teacher said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand, and raised him up.

When looking at these two stories, which are actually stories about ancient rabbis who lived in the 2nds or 3rd century in the land of Israel, later rabbis wonder if the teacher was able to heal his student, couldn’t he just heal himself? They answer by sharing this saying: “A prisoner cannot free themselves from prison.”

Discuss this quote in light of your own experience and understanding. You may want to post the quote on social media or write it on a note to keep in your room or wallet as a reminder of this ancient Jewish wisdom.  

Stress (from Shevet curriculum)

In studies on stress and its impact on boys, stress stemmed from their relationships with teachers and other people with authority over them. The older they get, the more stress they experience.

On average, boys report more frequent use of avoidance and distraction coping strategies than girls. Avoidance strategies involve not dealing with the stress at all. Distraction involves temporarily getting one’s mind off the stress. Teen boys try to deal with stress by either distracting themselves from it or ignoring it. A teenage boy might go out with friends, listen to some music or play a video game. This type of strategy is not necessarily unhealthy, but it only provides temporary relief from stress. Ignoring stress — or the avoidance strategy — can have long-term mental and physical health consequences. Dysfunctional strategies amongst boys include turning to alcohol, drugs, fighting or reckless behavior. 

When you notice the boys in your life experiencing stress, try the following:

  • “You seem stressed. Am I reading that right?
  • Share the above information about boys and stress.
    • “What is interesting, troubling, or surprising about this?”
    • From your experience, do you think this is accurate? Why or why not?
    • What are some things that you have noticed about guys and stress or about your own responses to stress?
  • Three Senses Activity
    • Notice what you are experiencing right now through three senses – sound, sight, touch. Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself:
      What are three things I can hear? (clock on the wall, car going by, music in the next room, my breath)
      What are three things I can see? (this table, that sign, that person walking by)
      What are three things I can feel? (the chair under me, the floor under my feet, my phone in my pocket)
      What, related to your senses has the ability to calm and ground you? What did you like
  • Jewish Texts on stress
    • “Guard yourself and guard your soul very carefully” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)
    • “Be as careful with the health of your soul as you are with the health of your body” (Jacob Isaac of Lublin)
    • Questions:
      • What does it mean to “guard” something? Other translations of the Hebrew word here (root, shin mem resh) is “protect”, “take care of”, “watch.” Do any of these definitions fit better for you than others?
      • What is the difference between yourself and your soul? Why does the Torah say we need to guard both?
      • What’s the difference between what these two texts are saying? What is the same?
      • Do any of these ideas resonate with you?

Practicing Self-Care (from Rosh Hodesh curriculum)

Many girls have been socialized by stereotypical messages from society that they should be caregivers, and put others’ needs first. The practice of self-care, and attuning to what you need in times of stress,  pressure, or overwhelm, can be a valuable way to attune to what they need and ask for help  and support in getting it.

Ask your teen(s) to use the following line starters to write a creative piece about what their body needs. They can either choose to use all line starters or choose only a few.
(If they are not using all prompts, have them complete the last three prompts and choose a few other prompts on the list to which they would like to respond.)

Line starters:

  • My hands have spent hours____.
  • My mouth has spoken about ____ to ______.
  • My legs and feet have ____ for hours.
  • My arms have _____ for hours.
  • I have thought about _____ for longer than I would like.
  • I have been afraid of _____ and nervous about ____.
  • I would like to feel ______.
  • I would rather think about ____ or ______.
  • My hands, mouth, legs, and feet would thank me if I ______.
  • My lungs and chest need _____.
  • My heart needs _____.
  • If I were speaking to my body like I would speak to a best friend, I would say____.
  • If I were speaking to my mind like I would speak to a best friend, I would say _____.
  • If I were speaking to my heart like I would speak to a best friend, I would say _____.
  • What makes self-care difficult?
  • What prevents you or other teens that you know from practicing self-care? (Possible answers: I don’t have time; I prioritize homework over self-care because I am graded on homework and not on self-care; I feel like I am expected to take care of other people before myself; I’ve tried meditating, but it’s not really my thing.)
  • What would make it easier for you to practice self-care?
Sometimes it can be really challenging to find the time to practice self-care. Many teens are overscheduled, receive a lot of homework, and feel pressure to overachieve. Many teens also receive messages that they should be putting others before themselves. The reasons why self-care is difficult double as reasons why self-care is important. And while it is partially a girl’s responsibility to make time for self-care, it is also important to recognize that there are some larger systems that need to change (e.g., school start time or the amount of homework given at school) in order for teen girls to feel more balanced in their lives.