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Health & Wellness

A Social Justice Primer for Teens and Parents

The Broader Issue

Within the scope of Health & Wellness, topics range from mental to physical, from policy to psychological, from spiritual to environmental; relevant issues encompass violence prevention, reproductive health, affordable health care, mental health stigma, substance abuse, bioethics, and more. The sheer magnitude of the subcategories that fall under the banner of “health and wellness” is indicative of its importance, and its vulnerability, with respect to individuals and communities.

Threats to health and wellness, or stressors, come from all angles; government policies, life situations, personal choices, and more. The ability to maintain a life, and culture, of health and wellness lies not in one’s capacity to manipulate internal and external factors to manufacture perfect circumstances, but in one’s aptitude for resiliency.

Resiliency is a skill that can be learned; a muscle that can be exercised. To be resilient is to adapt to stressors and be able to move forward. In order to foster a healthier society, emerging adults must be provided with tangible skills to develop resiliency.

The Reform Movement Position

The Reform Jewish Movement has a long history of supporting legislation regarding health care coverage, gun violence prevention, mental health, reproductive rights, and more. Drawing from Jewish values of holistic care, the Reform Movement has also committed to highlighting these topics regularly to ensure that meaningful conversation, and a breaking down of stigma, is a focus.

Guiding Questions

  1. Describe, in your own words, what resiliency is and why it’s important to mental health and well-being?
  2. What is the difference between stress and stressors? When you have stress, can you easily identify what the stressors are?
  3. How can you begin to address issues of mental health and wellbeing in your own life? With your friends? With those in your community? What resources did you need to achieve these goals?

Taking Action

Education and awareness are the first steps, but in order to affect real change, ongoing, tangible action needs to be taken. Your family, and your teen, may consider some of the following options to take their learning to the next level:

  • Visit the Religious Action Center’s Urgency of Now website for immediate legislative action items, such as advocating your position to members of Congress.
  • Consider spending part of a summer on a URJ Mitzvah Corps program that explores various components of health and wellness:
    • New Jersey – Work to empower sustainable, local efforts to improve community health.
    • Pacific Northwest – Support refugees as they settle into life in America, and navigate the ripple effects of their personal health and wellness.
    • New Orleans – Explore how health and wellness varies by socioeconomic status within the city of New Orleans.
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