Purim is dedicated to discovering what is underneath the masks we all wear.
Each of us has a side, or multiple sides, we are willing to share with the world — much like a mask. When we look at the story of Purim, we can see themes of unmasking: stepping into our true identities, accepting that within ourselves what we have been unable to accept and, from that, making great change.
Just as Queen Esther has something she is ashamed of that she hides — her Jewish identity — there is a cone of silence and stigma around mental health. It is this identity, however, that allows her to be able to save her people.
We don’t always know who in our community is struggling, because we may be seeing their mask. But given that one in five adults in the United States has struggled with their mental health (nami.org), it is safe to assume someone within your circle of loved ones or within your larger community has. Although studies show therapy and treatment are incredibly effective, too many people do not get help because of the stigma.
We can use the story of Purim as a way to discuss mental health and express our truest selves as well as to create space where others feel safe to share and receive support.
Why do we wear masks? Masks are a normal part of life. We use them to cope. We might wear a mask to be socially acceptable, to hide feelings of fear or insecurity, to hide depression or pain, to make ourselves less vulnerable if we don’t feel able to share or simply because we feel others will like us more.
Masks aren’t a “bad thing” but merely a tool. Sometimes, though, we can lose ourselves in them, or we can feel obligated to hide our identities and lived experiences. Having self awareness of when and why we are donning a mask, and feeling safe enough to take it off, is an important part of our mental health and having our needs met.
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