By Hindy Lieberman
Brené Brown, Miriam Adahan, Terry Real, Jessica Tsur.
All of these ladies have openly discussed their mental-health breakdowns and struggles (parallel to their great success). Though Jessica Tsur is not a mental-health professional, she is an outstanding leader working on a cutting-edge, multi-dimensional approach for women’s mental health.
It’s called C-A-T-C-H, Creating a Team of Courage and Hope.
What if we could CATCH all the needs of a family with a mother struggling with anxiety or depression? What if we could CATCH homemade meals and deliver them to that family? What if we could CATCH chesed girls to help children of this family with homework and babysitting? Could we also CATCH visitors and supportive people to lift the spirits of the one suffering? Lastly, and most importantly, what if we could CATCH the right kind of therapy, in the right kind of environment, with the right kind of support, at no cost to the client? What if this could happen before things got out of hand? Before there is a state of emergency? What if all the above could be under one all-inclusive organization where the person in pain doesn’t have to reach out and make myriad phone calls for all these needs to be covered?
This is Jessica’s vision of CATCH. Jessica is not alone in this vision, which is exactly what she wants for clients who will walk through their doors — to not feel alone. That is exactly what she had to fight for when she was going through her personal mental health struggles, particularly being with other frum women is a life giving component of this model. Also, being treated with dignity like a daughter of The King, as Hashem would want us to be treated. This, in contrast to many of the experiences Jessica has seen at hospitals where one is verily an anonymous number.
Ultimately, with the community’s help, Jessica would like to see a stand-alone inpatient facility for women, tailored for transitional emergency situations. Keeping in mind existing hospital facilities, Jessica asks, “Why can’t there be laughter? Why can’t there be exercise? Why can’t there be music?”
In her vision of a stand-alone facility there would be a premium quality team of professionals who really care about the clients getting better. It would be a stable healthcare staff, one that doesn’t change every few months.
The seasoned team of experts at C-A-T-C-H is forming. It is growing faster than expected, but they still need much help. Jessica shares, “There’s not one organization I’ve reached out to in the Five Towns that doesn’t agree this is a need.”
Partnering with Jessica in this ground-breaking venture are the talented and well respected mental health professionals, Brocha Silverstein and Deborah Marchuck.
Deborah Marchuck, LCSW, has been a practitioner in the mental health field for over 10 years. She has worked at Ohel/Tikvah Regional Family Center, Chai Lifeline, and Long Island Counseling and Anxiety before opening her private practice in 2018. She is trained in CBT, DBT, and treats adults and adolescents struggling with anxiety.
“When I was introduced to Jessica, I knew her goal was simple. ‘How can I help women suffering in silence?’ Jessica sees a need to support women who are struggling in silence with anxiety and depression,” said Marchuck. “She has received so many calls from women who need support. The idea of CATCH therapy groups is simple. It’s to create small intimate support groups facilitated by seasoned clinicians, who will guide the women through the challenges they may be facing and help them navigate through them. The slogan for CATCH is ‘We’ve got you.’ This is CATCH — to create a team of courage and hope.”
Brocha Silverstein, NCAC (National Certified Addiction Counselor), SAP (Substance Abuse Professional), is the former clinical director of an outpatient drug and alcohol facility. She currently assesses and counsels those affected by the disease of addiction and runs a support group in Madraigos for family members of the same. I asked Brocha about her involvement in CATCH: “The three of us, (Deborah, Jessica, and myself) are working to get these support groups running. When there is a need, I will fill in for a clinician running a group.” They are working through different assessments to ascertain which client inquiries are a proper fit for their groups. For instance, a woman in a current state of higher level emergency may not be fit for CATCH’s support groups. “We would then refer them to a different therapy option,” Brocha says. They also hope to use the assessment tool to follow up on client satisfaction, and to meet further client needs down the road.
Brocha continues, “The concept of peer support has been around for many years. With AA, we see that it’s a tried and tested idea. With mental health, we know that there are many variables present, which is why the clinician is an important ingredient in the groups.” There is a smile in her voice when she talks about Jessica’s contagious energy and many innovative ideas. “Deborah and I use our own experience for Jessica to bounce off ideas. We’re doing it one step at a time. Hashem has been really good to us…”
Jessica herself is a community activist, running the wonderfully popular Levli high-end clothing gemach in Bayswater. She also runs a first-rate preschool, where she is acutely picky that her teachers and assistants have a high caliber love of two-year-olds.
Other members of this all-star CATCH team are, Bikur Cholim, MASK, JCC, and Davis Memorial Fund with Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt.
Bikur Cholim, MASK, and the JCCRP are all involved in funding clinician facilitated peer support groups. Currently MASK is offering government grants for groups in Flatbush, Borough Park, Far Rockaway, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights. There is currently a clinician-run group set up in West Hempstead with six women, and one ready to be launched in Boro Park with the same.
Jessica explains more about the small intimate support groups in place. The benefits of being with a group can’t be duplicated. “Once you walk into a group, you’ve already broken through the stigma. You’re slowly becoming OK with stigma in the world,” says Jessica, with strength and sublimity. Jessica shares her own experience openly, in the hopes of giving others courage to reach out for help. She sheds light on the definition of functional depression. It’s where no one sees you’re struggling. No one knows “how much pain you go through on a daily basis. You go to work, raise a family, but really you’re dealing with a battle inside your own mind of incredible sadness and unworthiness. Unlike physical illness, no one sees anything on the outside.” That is why the groups are so essential.
Jessica tells how when the group session ends in West Hempstead, the women get together in someone’s backyard and just talk. It’s the one place women feel they can take off their masks, figuratively, of course. Connection is so important. “We don’t have to pretend to be strong and hold it all together. We can share in real way.” And that is so validating, strength giving, and healing. “I used to think my job was to break stigma.” Though it seems that happens naturally. “My job now, is not to break stigma … but to make sure people are getting the help they need.”
Jessica continues, “At the peak of my struggles, I had a great need for help with my family. Cooking dinners, helping my children, as well as my own need for support and uplifting visitors. These would all have to be advocated for separately, but through CATCH, I want them to be at clients’ fingertips, all within easy reach. People are struggling enough; they shouldn’t have an additional dizzying burden.” There’s another community-awareness message coming from CATCH. People can exhibit all kinds of physical symptoms, and not recognize them as anxiety-based. They can include: restlessness, pacing, difficulty sleeping (which can in turn cause impatience or hallucinations), stomach aches, nausea, and indigestion. Social interaction and work attendance can both markedly decrease. The message is “Don’t think you’re crazy when a medical doctor tells you nothing is wrong. Know that there may be a mental health issue going on that needs specialized attention.”
Please email Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a builder in this organization. CATCH welcomes client/clinical inquiries, offers to volunteer, support or help with existing groups, or to share your resources to inaugurate remarkably innovative parts of the organization. Your financial support and assistance are essential to make CATCH the next trailblazing multi-dimensional mental health organization tailored to the needs of our Jewish women. Chazaq u’baruch.
*Not real name.