Take Utmost Care: Mental Health

Cigna study, 2018:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).
  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.
  • Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.
  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).

The 1992 National Institutes of Mental Health found that “the overall lifetime rate of psychiatric disorder did not differ among Jews as compared to non-Jews, even after controlling for demographic factors.”

The study did find that Jews suffer from certain mental illnesses at higher rates, including major depression, dysthymia, schizophrenia and simple phobia, but had lower rates of others, including alcoholism.

The analysis found that rates of bipolar disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug abuse did not differ significantly between different religious groups.

- http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/judaism-and-mental-illness/

3 ג

(ט) רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד...

But take utmost care and guard yourselves scrupulously [lit. "But guard your self and guard your nefesh soul diligently"]

רק השמר לך ושמור נפשך מאד פן תשכח וגו'. השמר לך ר"ל שמירת הגוף ולא הזכיר בו מאד כמו בשמירת הנפש אשר בשמירתה צריך האדם להזהר ביותר מבשמירת הגוף לכך אמר ושמור את נפשך מאד.

Look out for yourself and guard your life exceedingly. “Guard yourself” means look after your physical body. It does not add “exceedingly” as it does after the second part of the verse which refers to guarding one’s soul, because one must be even more careful to protect one’s soul than one’s body.


(משלי יב, כה) דאגה בלב איש ישחנה רבי אמי ורבי אסי חד אמר ישחנה מדעתו וחד אמר ישיחנה לאחרים

“If there is anxiety in someone’s heart, let them quash it [yashchena]”

(Proverbs 12:25).

Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Ashi dispute the verse’s meaning.

One said: He should forcefully push it [yas'chena] out of his mind. One who worries should banish his concerns from his thoughts.

And one said: It means he should tell [yesichena] others his concerns, which will lower his anxiety.


Peter A Levine “In an Unspoken Voice”- 2010

The fear of being consumed by these "terrible" feelings leads us to convince ourselves that avoiding them will make us feel better and, ultimately, safer...

Unfortunately the opposite is true. When we fight against and/or hide from unpleasant or painful sensations and feelings, we generally make things worse. The more we avoid them, the greater is the power they exert on our behavior and sense of well being.


רבי יוחנן חלש, על לגביה רבי חנינא. אמר ליה: חביבין עליך יסורין? אמר ליה: לא הן ולא שכרן. אמר ליה: הב לי ידך! יהב ליה ידיה ואוקמיה. אמאי? לוקים רבי יוחנןלנפשיה! - אמרי: אין חבוש מתיר עצמו מבית האסורים.

TB Berachot 5b

R. Johanan once fell ill and R. Hanina went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him. Why could not R. Johanan raise himself? — They replied: The prisoner cannot free himself from jail.

9 ט

חמשה כחות כלליים שצריכים להיות מושגחים שיהיו שלמים בחיי הכלל והפרט, ואז ימצא בהם הכח המתאים להרחקת כל פגע ולהפרחת החיים בדרך נכונה. הא׳ בריאות הגוף והנפש בתור בעל חיים שלם ועלז בחיים...

There are five general forces that need to be tended to so that they should be whole in the life of the collective and the individual. Then, appropriate force will be found in them to keep all damage at a distance to enhance life in the correct way. The first is physical and mental health, leading to a full and joyous embracing of life...

- Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook



  • And for the sins we have committed by being so directed toward outward realities that we have ignored our spiritual development.
  • And for the sins of not recognizing that the deprivation of meaning and spirit is as painful as the deprivation of money or freedom;
  • And for the sins of being cynical about the possibility of building a world based on love;
  • And for the sins of spreading negative stories about people we know;
  • And for the sins of being passive recipients of negativity or listening and allowing others to spread hurtful stories;..
  • And for the sins of not giving our leaders, rabbis, educators, artists, and child caregivers the emotional and material support they need to continue to do the work that we depend on them to do.
  • And for the sins we have committed by not forgiving our parents for the wrongs they committed when we were children;
  • And for the sins of having too little compassion or too little respect for our parents or for our children;
  • For the sins of cooperating with self-destructive behavior in others or in ourselves;
  • And for the sins of not supporting each other as we attempt to change;
  • And for the sins of not seeing the spark of divinity within each person we encounter or within ourselves;
  • And for the sins of not learning from and giving adequate respect and care to our elders and to our teachers;
  • And for the sins of being jealous and trying to possess and control those whom we love;
  • And for the sins of being judgmental of others and ourselves;
  • And for the sins of withholding love and support;
  • And for the sins of doubting our ability to love and get love from others;
  • And for the sins of not recognizing the beauty within ourselves;
  • And for the sins of not recognizing the beauty that surrounds us;
  • And for the sins of not allowing ourselves to play;
  • And for the sins of being manipulative or hurting others to protect our own egos;
  • And for the sins of self-absorption, allowing us to be insulated from the loneliness and needs of people around us;
  • For the sins of focusing only on our sins and not our strengths and beauties;
  • And for the sins of not adequately rejoicing and celebrating the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation
    Ve-al kulam Eloha selichot, selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
    For all these, Lord of Forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement.



Cigna (cont.) The findings reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of having communities...

  • People who engage in frequent meaningful in-person interactions have much lower loneliness scores and report better health than those who rarely interact with others face-to-face.
  • Getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores.
    • Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.
    • Spending time with family.
    • Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely.
    • School / the workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonely.