headspace Israel tackles Israel’s youth mental health crisis head-on 

December 6, 2019 by  
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The recent official opening of the headspace Jerusalem centre marked a very special occasion…writes David Levy.

David Levy (Founder of headspace Israel), Itzik Sabato (Director of the National Insurance Fund, National Insurance Institute), Hilla Hadas (CEO of Enosh – The Israeli Mental Health Association), Chris Cannan (Australian Ambassador to Israel), Jason Trethowan (CEO of headspace Australia.)

We were honoured to have Chris Cannan, Australian Ambassador to Israel, Moshe Leon, Jerusalem Mayor and Jason Trethowan, CEO of headspace Australia attend.

Based-off the successful Australian model, headspace Israel, operated by Enosh – The Israeli Mental Health Association, and funded partly by The National Insurance Institute,  aims to help young Israelis aged 12-25 in need of mental health support through clinical intervention.

Beyond this, it seeks to raise more awareness around youth mental health issues in Israeli society more broadly. Increased government support and reducing mental health stigma can only be achieved through coordinated efforts with leaders and supporters such as those mentioned above. This includes our philanthropic partners from Australia, the US and around the world, who recognise the need to address youth mental health and understand the complex issue for what it is, a growing societal problem which requires more recognition, funding and services. Although this problem is not unique to Israel, it remains a growing domestic crisis which needs to be confronted head-on.

Youth mental health is undoubtedly one of Israel’s biggest health and economic challenges. Overall, it accounts for a staggering 60-70% of the non-fatal burden of disease among 15-24 year-olds. In 2019, Israel’s Health Ministry reported a 44% increase in the number of attempted suicides by boys and 14% by girls aged 10-14, comparing the years 2007-2009 to 2016-2018. At least 75% of mental disorders emerge for the first time before the age of 25. These disorders appear at a critical time in development and lead to individual and family-related distress, poor academic achievements, school/college dropout, unemployment, long-term disabilities and by the example of the above statistics, increased-risk of early fatality. Yet despite these alarming numbers, Israeli studies show that only 34% of adolescents suffering from symptoms of mental disorders and 40% of the mothers of adolescents suffering from mental disorders seek professional help. This is a result of a health care system that does not conventionalise effective, optimal interventions that are tailored to the mental health needs of adolescents.

After researching the state of youth mental health services in Israel, I was struck by the immense need at every level of the system and the lack of services and accessibility for young people. The death by suicide of a 20-year colleague of mine and my own lived experience propelled me to action, eventually leading me to set up headspace in Israel.

headspace Bat Yam (which is just south of Tel Aviv) opened its doors in December 2014, and as expected, the centre was very quickly at full capacity, providing services to 100 young people at any one time. Since its inception, over 1,500 young people have received treatment in the centre. After only 3 months of operation, 85 young people are receiving therapy at headspace Jerusalem. Although we are celebrating the opening of our second headspace centre in Jerusalem, the headspace Israel story has a long history, 8 years in the making.

There is much more work to do. There are more centres to open. There are thousands of young people to support. We need your continued support, both old and new, and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Contact me at

[email protected]

Mobile: +61 450 871 720

David Levy is the Founder of headspace Israel, having lived and set up headspace in Israel from 2011-2015. He is now supporting the expansion of headspace Israel based in Sydney and is the Director of Development in Australia for Enosh – The Israeli Mental Health Association.

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