Q&A With Laurie Rackind, Chief Executive Jami

What opportunities do you hope to get from joining the JLC and what expertise will Jami offer to the JLC and its member organisations?

Mental Health is one of the most important issues affecting modern society.  One in four of us will be affected by mental illness in any year. The Jewish Community has provided a disproportionate number of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals to the wider community and yet arguably has failed to focus on its own mental health. We hope that in time, the Jewish Community will become admired for its approach to Mental Health in terms of stigma & discrimination, education, awareness and the provision of services. The JLC, its member organisations and stakeholders are key to achieving this aim. We hope that JLC members commit to accepting Jami’s offer to deliver Mental Health First Aid training to key staff.

What is the most exciting project Jami are currently involved in?

Difficult as we have so many exciting projects, like asking a parent to choose their favourite child! So instead I’ll highlight our most recent project:

Jami is placing mental health at the heart of the community in the form of our innovative new social enterprise in Golders Green. Called Head Room, the venture will serve fantastic fresh coffee and seasonal food as well as showcase a carefully selected range of designer, vintage and quirky items to buy. Our volunteers and service-users will gain valuable work experience on site.

In addition, Head Room will provide vital access to support and information on mental health issues. During key hours, a member of Jami’s team will offer friendly advice and signposting to other services. In a separate break-out area, our Recovery Education team will be running a timetable of discussion programmes and learning opportunities. We’re inviting the whole community to Sip, Shop and Share with us.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing Jami and the wider community at the moment?

Despite the undoubted increased profile of Mental Health and the willingness of particularly younger people to speak about the subject, statutory services are in the main focused on crisis care. This is extremely short-sighted, flies in the face of health economics and leaves us with totally inadequate services. It would be completely unacceptable in other fields such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes to offer treatment only when a person’s health had drastically deteriorated and yet this is precisely the situation we have in terms of mental health services. Politicians speak of their desire to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health but the rhetoric needs to be supported financially. Ironically, the lack of statutory funding for most of Jami’s work (Jami is 98% funded by voluntary income) has freed us from the shackles of statutory commissioners and enabled us to create class leading services which in many cases the wider community struggles to even begin to develop. Unfortunately, demand for our services is ever growing and it is a struggle to develop the necessary capacity. We need the community to see Mental Health as one of its most important causes and support Jami accordingly.

How has the community changed in recent years?

The polarization of the community, both demographic and geographic, presents both opportunities and challenges. Logistically, the community is easier to reach but in many respects is more insulated from the experiences of the wider population. So whilst accessibility assists communal service provision, "insulation" increases the burden. The challenge to Jami and other communal organizations is take account of this anomaly when developing and delivering services and to focus resources accordingly.

What motivates you to be involved in communal life?

The opportunity to influence and help engineer social change is a privilege. A particular motivation of working within the Jewish Community, with such a relatively small population, is that such change is realistically achievable. On a personal and individual level, my motivation stems from hearing the personal testimony of someone's lived experience and how Jami colleagues have helped them on their journey. It is inspiring to hear such accounts and thankfully, a frequent experience.