Shining the Light

America is in the throes of a teen mental health crisis. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10-24 in the United States. The number of drug overdose deaths in that age group has tripled since 1999, and today’s young people are more likely to abuse opioids than street drugs except for marijuana. Thirty-two percent of high school students in Michigan report symptoms of depression; 17 percent report suicidal thoughts.

Metro Detroit’s Jewish community is not immune. A 2016 community assessment study funded by the Jewish Fund and completed with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit revealed that teens in Jewish Detroit are struggling with mental health concerns. According to the survey, 52 percent of teen respondents said they or their friends were struggling with anxiety, and 42 percent of respondents said they struggle with low self-esteem, sadness or depression. Other concerns cited by teen respondents were eating disorders (25 percent), bullying (22 percent) and drug use (17 percent).

We all know families devastated by suicide, overdose deaths or who are struggling to help their children and family members deal with a mental illness. Too often these families struggle alone, their problems kept in the dark because of the stigma mental illness still holds on our society — that mental illness is a personal failing, a result of bad parenting, something you should be able to just “snap out of” on your own. None of that is true, of course.

It’s time to take the issue of teen mental health — and its accompanying stigma — out of the shadows and into the light. Many organizations in the Jewish community are taking on this goal, from the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service, Kadima, Friendship Circle, A Single Soul, and the list goes on. However, no one organization can solve the problem on its own. It will take the entire community, working together, to make a difference — including the Jewish News.

The silhouette of a head pointing left is made up of black and blue hands. Above the head reads "spotlight on," and in the head reads "teen mental health."
Shining the Light: Spotlight on Teen Mental Health logo

In 2018, the JN will be “shining the light” on the topic of teen mental health. Throughout the year, we will bring you not only stories of communal and congregational efforts to solve this problem as well as educational stories like this one, but also personal stories — both inspiring and tragic — from people living with this challenge and stories written by teens chronicling their struggles.

Whenever you see the “Spotlight on” logo in the JN pages, you’ll know the topic touches on teen mental health. Readers can also visit and type “shining the light” in the search bar to see all the stories in one place.

We invite readers’ feedback. If you have a story to share or a question you want answered on this topic, send an email to

Our goal? We want readers of the JN to recognize the symptoms of a mental health crisis, know when and where they should seek out help, and to help erase the stigma from those suffering mental health challenges. Together, we can make a difference.

If you or your teen could benefit from counseling, contact Jewish Family Service at (248) 592-2313 or

Jackie Headapohl Managing Editor

Want to read more about Shining the Light and Teen Mental Health? Check out:

Teens & Mental Health – Warning Signs

Read essays from teens in the community:

Here’s My Story – You Matter, Depression and A Dark And Scary Time