McLean has partnered with Stuart Katz, CEO of TAL Tours and a longtime advocate for humanitarian, mental health, and environmental causes, to bring mental health education and anti-stigma programming to Israel.

Katz saw McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma display at Logan Airport in 2018 while a family member was receiving care at McLean, inspiring him to contact the hospital about bringing the program to Israel.

“From my perspective, the problem of mental health stigma is worse in Israel than the U.S. because of the culture, the religion, and the ‘macho’ attitude,” Katz explained. However, he said that attitudes are shifting and enthusiasm for battling stigma is on the rise.

“We are excited to see continued increased interest in addressing it, which is very positive,” he said.

In late 2019, McLean representatives met with more than 20 hospitals, universities, museums, municipalities, health care organizations, and others in Israel to discuss ways to highlight the importance of mental health. These meetings were the start of several ongoing collaborations between McLean and Israeli organizations.

Jerusalem College of Technology

Starting in 2020, McLean began working with The Jerusalem College of Technology – Lev Academic Center (JCT) to bring McLean’s Deconstructing Stigma project to JCT’s campuses.

JCT faculty, staff, and students will localize and adapt McLean’s award-winning campaign, Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health.

The campaign uses a series of larger-than-life photographs and interviews to debunk the misconceptions about those who live with mental illness, including the complexities surrounding seeking treatment, navigating insurance and health care systems, and facing stigma.

The JCT iteration of Deconstructing Stigma will be carried out over a full academic year by a class of 30 fourth-year nursing students from Ofek, JCT’s special track for Haredi female students. These students were chosen for the campaign with the hope of making them agents of change in Israeli society.

Participating students will:

  • Study theories and research regarding the stigmatization associated with mental health issues
  • Conduct meetings and conversations with people from varied backgrounds who have been affected by mental illness
  • Identify community members from diverse backgrounds to share their stories for the campaign
  • Plan and design the campaign with the community members
  • Find potential sites to present the installations
  • Create and promote the installations

The exhibits on JCT campuses are set to launch in late 2022.

Deconstructing Stigma Research Project

JCT students are also carrying out a research project in collaboration with David H. Rosmarin, PhD, ABPP, from McLean Hospital and Prof. Steven Tzvi Pirutinsky, PhD, from Touro College.

The students are working in groups under the guidance of JCT’s Zvika Orr, PhD, receiving training on methodologies, reviewing literature, formulating research questions and hypotheses, data gathering and analysis, drawing conclusions, and preparing a research report.

The project aims to study the campaign’s impact on the lives of the participants who share their stories as well as on the attitudes of JCT’s students and staff toward mental illness.

JCT’s experience in this space derives largely from the Lev Bakehila Community Project, the college’s flagship civic engagement program. Founded in 2015, the program enables JCT students, faculty, and staff to promote the rights of people with disabilities in areas such as housing, education, employment, accessibility, due process, and equality.

Facts About Mental Health in Israel

In 2015, Israel reformed its approach to mental health by integrating mental health care into primary care. A study looked at attitudes around mental health six months after the reform effort went into effect. Among the findings:

  • Most individuals still felt uncomfortable seeking referral to mental health services through the public health system
  • Arab Israelis have lower levels of comfort in seeking mental health care than Jewish Israelis
  • More public education regarding mental illness is needed to address stigma
  • Only 13% of respondents to another recent study said they would seek professional treatment if they felt anxious or tense but would seek help immediately if they felt they were in crisis due to a “severe” psychiatric illness

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