Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy Upper School Raises Mental Health Awareness

Getting through life as a teenager—dealing with the emotional challenges of transitioning between childhood and adulthood—can be especially difficult, even in the best of times. Add to that the stresses created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the level of angst and anxiety among teens is amped up further.

BCHA Upper School principal and licensed clinical social worker Rabbi Shimmy Trencher, school counselor and licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner Angela Wilson, and special programs coordinator Ilana Bauman came up with an idea to give a voice to these students by bringing mental health awareness to the entire student body.

On January 21, BCHA Upper School hosted an all-day school-wide Mental Health Day program, coordinated by a group of Upper School students with the guidance of Wilson, Bauman and Rabbi Trencher.

The day began with a keynote presentation by Marc Fein, who has spent 15 years in experiential Jewish education and has run programs for teens and educators. He shared an insightful perspective on what it means to live with a mental illness and how teens can support each other. Other speakers included Eli Weinstein, LMSW, Temimah Zucker, LCSW, Rabbi Chagie Rubin, and two BCHA students who spoke about their own experiences with mental health.

“It was difficult talking about personal experiences, but we did a great job creating a safe space for the discussions,” said senior Danielle Hadge, who led a panel discussion on anxiety and was a Mental Health Day Committee member, along with Izzy Kanefsky, Jaime Zaritsky, Josh Schulman, and Menucha Goldberg, a sophomore who also led a panel discussion on Body Dysmorphia.

"Attending panels in which students spoke about their own experiences with mental health and watching students lead discussions with grace, strength and bravery was one of my proudest moments as a teacher and educator. One student's vulnerability encouraged other students to be vulnerable. One student's courage empowered others to be courageous. It was beautiful to witness.”

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