Raising Awareness, Saving Lives: An Open Conversation With Rabbi Shalom Hammer

March 25, 2024

Raising Awareness, Saving Lives: An Open Conversation With Rabbi Shalom Hammer

At JF&CS, we strive to be nimble to the evolving needs of the community and, right now, the mental health of our young people is top-of-mind. One of the most urgent needs among this group is one that is uncomfortable to talk about – youth suicide.

Youth suicide rates have increased 62% between 2007 and 2021, and more than 20% of teens have seriously considered taking their own lives. In our next Focus Workshop on April 19, we will be educating parents about mental health awareness and suicide prevention with Rabbi Shalom Hammer of the Israeli organization Gila’s Way.

“There is a fear that if you mention or bring up the topic of suicide, it will inadvertently cause the act to occur,” says Rebecca Brown, LCSW, and BeWellATL Program Manager. “But research shows quite the opposite – talking about it and bringing it up can be a relief to the person who is contemplating suicide and also shows that you care as their friend or family member.”

Rebecca will be in conversation with Rabbi Hammer during the workshop to bring awareness of suicide prevention, a topic that is deeply personal to him. Rabbi Hammer tragically lost his 18-year-old daughter Gila to suicide in 2019, and since her passing has become a certified mental health instructor and started Gila’s Way. He is based in Israel and advocates for suicide prevention worldwide. His visit was originally scheduled for November, but the war in Israel prevented his arrival until now.

Rebecca is grateful for not only the opportunity to break the stigma but also to learn from Rabbi Hammer. “There is a lot of value in learning from someone with lived experience,” she said. “It’s terrible that Rabbi Hamer has been through this, but we are so grateful that he is open and willing to share his experience.”

The Focus Workshop will be virtual via Zoom on Friday, April 19. To sign up, click here.

Coming Up:

We are looking for a group of Jewish teens who will be in 10th to 12th grades during the 2024/2025 school year to serve on the BeWellATL Teen Mental Health Roundtable beginning in August. For more information, contact Rebecca Brown at rbrown@jfcsatl.org.

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