(Photo: Mitchell Weiss and his parents Robyn and Bryan Weiss.)
The Jewish community has a problem. We’re not supposed to suffer from mental health problems. Or at the very least, we’re not supposed to admit it out loud if we do. But don’t tell that to Mitchell Weiss. This 13-year-old from West Bloomfield wants to let everyone know that it’s ok to experience mental health issues — and it’s especially important to be able to ask for help.
For his Bar Mitzvah community service project, Mitchell raised money for Federation in support of We Need to Talk (WN2T). WN2T is a community-wide youth mental health initiative aimed at increasing awareness of mental illness, reducing stigma and improving access to services.
We had a chance to ask this courageous young man about his journey from mental illness discovery to the healing process, and about helping others with their mental well-being.
What made you decide to support We Need to Talk and Federation as part of your mitzvah project?
I chose to support your organization because I recently found out that I have mental health issues and I want to spread awareness to friends, family, the Jewish community and everyone else.
How are you feeling today after your wonderfully kind, and very honest, gesture?
I feel very proud that I donated to an awesome organization that is really helping people from everywhere.
If you are comfortable, tell us about your personal mental health journey.
Two years ago I asked for help. I needed help understanding and managing the thoughts inside my brain. I was sad and angry a lot of the time. I had been dealing with it alone for a while, until one day I decided to ask for help. I shared what I felt. Almost immediately they got me the help I needed. I saw a counselor and started medicine and was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. I am very grateful that I felt listened to.
How has the pandemic affected your mental wellbeing?
The pandemic didn’t help my wellbeing because I was all cooped up inside my home, unable to hang out with friends and just be a kid. [But even so] the pandemic [also] helped… because I had a lot of alone time to figure out what was wrong and things I could do to fix it. I would say that the pandemic helped me better than not.
What advice do you have for other teens who may be going through mental health issues?
If you are struggling, remember that you can ask for help too. Every person matters no matter what. People really want to listen and give you feedback. You just have to trust the process.
When is your Bar Mitzvah and where? (Mazel Tov, btw.)
My bar mitzvah service [was] on June 3rd at Temple Israel and the next day there [was] a swim party at my house during lunch. I am very excited to become a Jewish man.
Is there anything else you would like our Jewish community to know about mental health, getting help or doing mitzvahs?
First, don’t be nervous if you mess up, no one will know. Second, there are always people who care for you and love you. And finally, thank you so much for this amazing organization. If you need to talk you can talk!
WN2T works in partnership with Jewish Detroit’s human service agencies, schools, synagogues and youth-serving organizations. Together, WN2T and partners provide educational programming, training, and funding for additional mental health professionals to support young people and their families. The program is managed by Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit with support from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.