web analytics
November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Depression: Not A Hopeless Malady

Respler-051013

Dear Dr Yael:

During a shiur on Pirkei Avos, a rabbi admired by my husband spoke about how some people begrudge others certain things. He mentioned the “D” word (without saying the word itself), and I think he said it was an illness talked about in the Gemara. He said that people suffering from this “machalah shachor” (dark illness) should live in a desert with the wild animals. My assumption was that the person would be left to die there.

As soon as he said machalah shachor, depression came to mind. The rabbi then quoted the Rambam, who recommended that one afflicted with this illness should listen to music, take walks in the garden and view beautiful buildings. He made a sarcastic comment about music, saying that judging from the amount of music available today, 99 percent of the population must be treating themselves for machalah shachor.

Here’s what is troubling me: As the daughter of a woman who has been on Prozac for over 20 years, I know that this rabbi’s recommended “cure” – that depressed people just work on their character and learn how to not begrudge someone else’s joy – is way off base. I believe he is reckless and self-righteous to think that this is how depression can be cured. Doesn’t he understand that over 90 percent of suicides are those suffering from depression?

How do we get our rabbinic community to eradicate this rabbi’s misconception, a fallacy that can, chas v’shalom, cost someone his or her life or leave the person joyless? Can there be some type of “black hat” training (or, in this case, “shtreimel” training) that can save people from being led toward such so-called fixes for depression – rather than seeking out professionals that can help them?

This is a complicated issue for me, as my husband admires this rabbi. I hate to think what would happen if my husband ever asked this rabbi for advice regarding depression or any other emotional challenge in his life.

H. S.

Dear H.S.:

It is hard to imagine that an illness like depression can be treated like it is something that someone can just “get over.” Thus, I understand your horrified reaction.

There are definitely things that can help people overcome depression but, as you mentioned, professional help is necessary and should be the first step in the healing process. Many depressed people require medication in conjunction with psychotherapy. Research has found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often most helpful in cases of depression. People suffering from depression frequently think negatively about themselves and the world around them. This negative perception is often how the person thinks about life in general, and as many or all of the depressed person’s experiences are distorted through a negative filter, the thinking patterns become so ingrained that the individual is unaware of errors in judgment based on irrational thoughts.

CBT is intended to show people how their thinking affects their moods, and teach them to think more positively about life and themselves. This therapy is based on the concept that thinking negatively is a habit, which like any other bad habit, can be broken. The reason some people need the combination of medication and psychotherapy is because the depression can keep them from effectively utitlizing the help. While psychotherapy, especially CBT, can be used on its own to help someone cope with depression, every case is unique and needs its own treatment plan.

Depression, as you emphatically stated, cannot be taken lightly. If, chas v’shalom, someone was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the person would need to follow whatever treatment was prescribed by an expert in that particular field. It is unclear why some people do not have the same feeling about mental illness. The treatment plan suggested by mental illness experts should be followed to increase the chances of success.

Listening to music may indeed be part of that treatment plan, but music by itself is surely not a cure for depression. Unfortunately, this widely accepted misconception is not limited to the frum community. Many individuals feel that mental illness is not real and that it can be “cured easily.” The reality is that mental illness is very real, requiring treatment by a competent professional. Many organizations are trying to bring this issue to the forefront of people’s minds and, believe it or not, there has been much growth in this awareness effort. Hopefully our community continues to value the importance of focusing on understanding mental illness, and I hope that your letter helps others realize the seriousness of depression.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Depression: Not A Hopeless Malady”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
What, me incite terror? Abba: "The Jews must be barred by any means possible."
Ex-Senior Justice Official Asks Homeland Security to Ban Abbas from US
Latest Sections Stories
Kupfer-112114

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

Astaire-112114-Horse

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

L to R: Sheldon Adelson, Shawn Evenhaim, Haim Saban

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

South-Florida-logo

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

“Grandpa,” I wondered, as the swing began to slow down, “why are there numbers on your arm?”

So the real question is, “How can we, as hosts, make sure our guest beds are comfortable?” Because your guests will never say anything.

It was a land of opportunity, a place where someone who wasn’t afraid of a little hard work, or the challenges of adapting to a different climate and culture, could prosper.

Rule #1: A wife should never accompany her husband to hang out with his buddies at a fantasy football draft. Unless beer and cigars are her thing, that is.

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

The two World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, were Wild Card teams (meaning they didn’t win their respective divisions) that got hot at the right time.

More Articles from Dr. Yael Respler
Respler-111414

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

Respler-110714

When one marries someone with children, all family members must accept them.

My mother-in-law is totally devoted to her daughters and their children. Her sons’ children on the other hand are treated like second-class citizens.

How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?

It is important for a therapist to focus on a person’s strengths as a way of overcoming his or her difficulties.

I went to camp for many years. We cleaned our own bunks and did not have air conditioning.

“I would really love my mother-in-law …if she weren’t my mother-in-law.”

Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/depression-not-a-hopeless-malady/2013/05/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: