Lending Headspace in Israel a helping hand

From left: Enosh CEO Hilla Hadas, former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, Headspace Israel clinical director Eyal Brener and Enosh chairman Yoram Cohen at the Bat Yam opening. Photo: Australian Embassy in Israel.

WITH the opening of Headspace’s second centre in Israel imminent, the Australian who took the model to the Holy Land says the ultimate vision is a “nation-wide network” of centres.

Headspace, which provides tailored mental health support to people aged 12-25 at over 100 centres in Australia, opened its first Israeli centre in Bat Yam in 2014.

It marked the culmination of three years of hard work by Sydneysider David Levy, who observed a deficiency while living in Israel at the end of 2011.

“I did quite a bit of research into the state of youth mental health in Israel and I was shocked at the lack of services and how far Israel was behind compared to developed countries like Australia,” he told The AJN.

Levy approached Chris Tanti, then CEO of Headspace Australia, for permission to implement the model in Israel.

Funding was secured from Bituah Leumi, Israel’s national social security agency, on the proviso Levy could match the amount from private donations, which he did. To be eligible for funding, Headspace Israel became part of Enosh, the Israeli Mental Health Association.

“It’s still very independently branded and it’s a very separate service, so we ensure that the youth-friendly nature of the branding, et cetera is protected,” Levy said.

Bat Yam was chosen for the first centre due to an evident need for mental health services for the city’s youth.

“That was pretty much at capacity within a month,”said Levy, who is also negotiating a three-year deal, with the support of the Besen Foundation, to take R U OK? Day to Israel.

Headspace is now on track to open its second centre in Jerusalem in the next few months.

Levy, currently based in Australia, is fundraising to support the Jerusalem centre.

“The amount of services we can provide is pretty much tied to that funding and how many clinicians we are able to employ,” he said, adding, “The vision is a nation-wide network of centres and we’re all working hard to make that happen.”

Those who wish to can make a donation through UIA or JNF and receive tax deductibility.

We were very well supported over the first few years from our founding partners, Gandel Philanthropy, the Pratt Foundation, the Victor Smorgon Charitable Fund, the Lowy Foundation, the Saunders family and the Wohl family,” Levy said.

“[But] We do need the continued support of the Jewish community of Australia.”

Contact David Levy 0450 871 720 or [email protected]

GARETH NARUNSKY