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I am a 23-year-old bochur who suffers from depression. Although not talked about often, depression is a major issue affecting the frum community. And while there are support groups for depression, there are no support groups for frum Jews.
Being a Jew with depression is a two-fold problem. Besides for the physical and emotional difficulties, it is also a stumbling block in our spirituality.
If anyone is interested in joining the support group I want to start, or would like more information, please write to this column or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Depressed in Flatbush
Since all of us experience the blahs and are “down in the dumps” at some time or other, we must clarify to our reading audience that you are referring to Clinical Depression, which is unlike the passing sadness that we undergo over upsetting incidents in our lives.
Clinical depression comes about when chemicals in the brain do not communicate properly. An imbalance of chemicals, called neurotransmitters, can bring on feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, a sad emptiness, irritability, agitation, anger, guilt, and the like – manifested by much hand wringing, extreme anxiety, an inability to cope, and confusion. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and are often triggered either by stress or trauma, a pessimistic persona, postnatal blues, or even medication that one may be taking for an unrelated physical ailment.
This is not to say that tension and pressure necessarily lead to depression. Many people handle stress overload quite well. However, one who is vulnerable to acquiring a depressive disorder is more likely to succumb to it. At the same time, one predisposed to depression but lucky enough to be living the life of Riley may never develop this illness.
Thankfully, medication (known as antidepressants) can be prescribed by a mental health professional after evaluating the sufferer’s specific condition – which can then be successfully treated. Counseling sessions are strongly advised as part of the healing regimen; talk therapy is an essential and beneficial element of the healing process. A supportive friend, understanding spouse and family members can be a tremendous boost for the depression-afflicted. Frustrated loved ones should keep in mind that a person enduring the torment of depression has no more control over his/her affliction than does someone who is stricken with a migraine.
Proper evaluation and treatment of a depressive disorder can make all the difference in the world and enable the sufferer to lead a happy, fulfilling and productive life.
As for depression being a “stumbling block in our spirituality,” the same can be said for any debilitating illness. I would venture to add that those closely affiliated with the distressed and troubled soul are also being ‘tested.’ Our actions and reactions reveal much about us and will leave a lasting impression – positive or negative – both here and the hereafter.
Individuals suffering from depression are prone to self-consciousness and low self-esteem. A recovering parent, for instance, may feel especially awkward when there are older children in the home who are aware of the goings on. These children are in a position to perform the mitzvah of kibud av v’eim in an awesome manner – by going out of their way to maintain the honor and respect of the affected parent regardless of the challenging circumstances, and by doing their part in ensuring a stress-free environment thus being instrumental in helping the parent weather the crisis and regain his/her self-worth.
By fulfilling our mission as His true emissaries of chessed, may we merit our Father’s compassion and the end of golus in our day.
I wish you a yeshua and much hatzlacha in all your undertakings.