Heroes of Ramat Eliyahu: Amitim

"Fools, " said I, "You do not know
Silence, like a cancer, grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells, of silence.

Mental illness is a silent specter.

It is pervasive, grossly misunderstood, and lurking in the shadows of Israel. For thousands of years, people with mental disabilities have been confined to asylums, lobotomized, subjugated — or worse — and though there’s been substantial advancements in treatment, modern psychology hasn’t even scratched the surface.

Because mental illnesses don’t always manifest physically, they can be overlooked, but they’re far more common than we might be led to believe. 1 in 5 American adults experience a mental illness each year, and 1 in 5 adolescents will suffer a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

For Israelis, the statistics aren’t widely available, but they’re likely comparable -- if not higher.

At the vanguard of the fight against mental illness is Amitim.

Amitim is not a person, but a group of heroes from the Israeli Ministry of Health who work in communities like Ramat Eliyahu. They provide individuals who suffer mental disabilities with financial assistance and basic quality of life care. However, Amitim’s social support web is where the real changes take place. In the Matnas — the Community Center — Amitim hosts activities like art classes and movie showings with open enrollment (and disability beneficiaries are given the choice of anonymity if they wish). The organization is also insistent on creating a safe space where anyone can share their struggles, free from judgement, and away from persecution.

Silence, like a cancer, grows, but just acknowledging the existence of mental illness is not enough.

Amitim is showing the community that people can speak up, that they’ll be heard, and that silent specters have no place in Ramat Eliyahu.