Monday, January 6, 2014

Ex-Haredim in Israel shaken by spate of suicides

Haaretz    The young people who gathered Sunday at Jerusalem’s Shamgar Funeral Home were unfortunately no strangers to the place. Only Thursday they had been there for the funeral of M., a friend who had committed suicide, and now they were there for A., who had also taken her own life. 

Both of the dead had been in their 20s and grown up religious, but had chosen to leave the observant way of life. According to those working with Haredi young people who decide to leave their communities, seven such young adults have committed suicide over the past 18 months.[...]

These last two suicides have shaken up the community of former Haredim, which numbers several hundred, many of whom forge close relationships with one another to replace the families that in many cases have abandoned them. The feeling that they are part of a solid, growing community has increased over the past few years as members connect through Facebook groups and forums, some run independently and some by Hillel, an NGO that helps former Haredim fill the gaps in their education and make the transition into general society.  [...]

“When people ask me how I am with this, I refuse to answer,” Hass said Sunday. “I don’t answer, and I don’t think about whether I could have done better or done worse. Our goal now, with the minimal resources we have, which includes only two social workers on staff and other volunteers, is to prevent a wave.”


  1. I can understand the pull to leave the Haredi world. I grew up MO and have been Haredi for many years. There is an incredible amount wrong with Haredi society today.
    However, I think that the issue here is that when people whose entire lives were in the Haredi world leave that world, they lose the fabric of their world. They do not understand the secular world, and they have no support from the world they do know.
    I think that as long as organizations such as Hillel do not try to convince Haredim to leave their society, I think that they are doing something to help - but it's not nearly enough.
    Personally, I don't think that this has anything to do with Haredim, per se. It's more or less the same thing you would see in a any population that abandons its native environment.

  2. " they lose the fabric of their world."

    That's it in a nutshell. The question is what we, those commanded with ahavas yisroel as a Klal Gadol, are doing to protect that fabric... and help re-weave it when it frays

  3. People who go OTD tend to be folks with mental issues.

  4. The article in Mishpacha shows this point rather well.
    I can tell based on my limited experience volunteering with those people who go OTD and are totally abandoned by their families may internalize this rejection so acutely R'L they end their suffering. The problem can not be blamed on a teenager experimenting with with independence. The issue is clearly with a culture that has little tolerance for individual expression. The pressure of conformity has parents fearing the shidduch worthiness of the rest of the family and leads them to consider shunning and rejecting their own children. Conformity has another dimension that is also dangerous of trying to put every kid into a "bog" of expectations. If a child deviates from expected norms, the worst thing a parent can do is to reject the child. A corollary that goes with this is parents often wait too long to consult with properly trained mental health professionals and instead avail themselves to lay leaders, askanim, or rebbes, who are woefully untrained for these difficult cases. While no one (I hope) would go to a rebbe for treatment (I am not talking about spiritual guidance) for a pediatric immunological matter, so too by mental health a proper professional is needed. My experience is limited to 40-50 individuals but there are very clear patterns that emerge. Footsteps are only successful if the community pushes children towards them.

  5. Dan:

    Stop living in your little bubble and stop imagining that if only these kids would go to "trained mental health professionals" earlier all would be well.

    Facts don't match your assumptions. Mental health treatment has very low treatment success.

    "Trained mental health professionals" themselves have a higher than average suicide rate!!!

    "Trained mental health professionals" go through the same struggles.

    1. lorisch,
      Wow! I hope you and your loved ones never need crisis intervention that includes mental health professionals. None of you children should ever need educational help, Heaven forbid should there be a molestation, (the psychologists are more chashud then anyone else, you will say) and forget about needing chai lifeline for an illness, (what do they know about dealing with death and trauma, they are just in it for publicity, and biking events). Sorry buddy, when it hits home (hopefully it won't) you will realize how stupid ignorant arrogant and idiotic you sound.
      Btw, do you vaccinate? Because people with the attitude you seem to project make similar claims about other health professions! Heh! I know a doctor who gives flu vaccines, and he got the flue! See, the whole thing is nareshkeit!

    2. EC
      Are you off your rocker?
      I didn't knock educational health... nor chai lifeline... nor vaccinations...
      I stated the obvious: Many kids that do go to mental health professionals when they're young still end up very screwed up.

      Many kids of mental health professionals also end up screwed up...

      How do I know? Let's just say that this happens to be my line...

  6. The only one living in bubble is you who feel there is limited benefit to mental health. Facts are, you are wrong, by every measurable factor. What are you basing your comments on? Empirical? Ideas like yours prevent many people who need help from getting the most out of life.

    1. I DO believe in mental health. I just happen to know quite a few kids that had absolutely no benefit from these mental health professionals

      Yes - empirical.

      But you're right about the culture that has little tolerance for individual expression..

    2. You are not citing any empirical evidence. You do mention your limited anecdotal experience. The two are not the same. I think it is a disservice to anyone reading to castigate an entire profession that has literally saved lives as ineffective.

    3. of course it is limited. no one would say it is unlimited. it is very, very important not to blindly trust someone because they have a few letters after their name. one needs to do a lot of research before settling on a mental health practitioner. (i'm speaking from a lot of experience with family members.) if you find the right one he or she can really help, and yes even save lives. But unfortunately the majority are unqualified, inexperienced and only in it for the money and lack the sense to distinguish between their book-schooling and real life.

  7. A piece written in the New York times not long ago by Harriet Brown explains WHY most therapy doesn't work, and how to find and choose a better therapist.

    The original is @

    Some highlights of the article:

    Mental-health care has come a long way … over the last 30 years, treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and family-based treatment have been shown effective for ailments ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.

    Yet, 1) ”Surprisingly few patients actually get these kinds of evidence-based treatments once they land on the couch — 2) And even professionals who claim to use evidence-based treatments rarely do. The problem is called “therapist drift.”

    “A large number of people with mental health problems that could be straightforwardly addressed are getting therapies that have very little chance of being effective,

    “In a 2009 Columbia University study, research findings had little influence on whether mental-health providers learned and used new treatments. Far more important was whether a new treatment could be integrated with the therapy the providers were already offering.

    “About 30 percent did something like motivational work, and 25 percent did something like mindfulness,” said Dr. Waller. “You wouldn’t buy a car under those conditions.”

    “The idea of therapy as an art is a very powerful one,” she [Dianne Chambless, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania ] said. “Many psychologists believe they have skills that allow them to tailor a treatment to a client that’s better than any scientist can come up with with all their data.”

    “The research suggests otherwise. A study by Kristin von Ranson, … and colleagues published last year concluded that eating-disorder clinicians often did not use an evidence-based treatment or blended it with other techniques for a more eclectic approach. A previous study had suggested that these patients may fare worse,

    “Therapists who skew toward the “artistic” side say that so-called manualized treatment devalues crucial aspects of therapy like empathy, warmth and communication — the “therapeutic alliance.” But some experts believe this is a false choice. “No one believes it’s a good idea to have a bad relationship with your client,” said Dr. Chambless. “The argument is really more, ‘Is a good relationship all we need to help a patient?’ ” “A stereotype of manualized treatment is: you go buy a book and it’s a rigid, lock step thing,” he said. “But when done competently, it’s anything but.”

    “You can become a therapist with very little training in how to think scientifically,” said Carolyn Becker, a professor of psychology at Trinity University in San Antonio. Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers and other mental-health professionals complete years of rigorous schooling and apprenticeships, but it is possible to practice therapy without such a [scientific] foundation. “A lot of students come in and say, ‘I hate science, but I’m good with people. I like to listen and help them,’ ” said Dr. Becker. There is little incentive for therapists to change what they are doing if they believe it works. But “every clinician overestimates how well they’re doing,” said Dr. Spring.

    Dr. Wilson believes mental health practitioners, especially younger clinicians, are slowly moving toward more evidence-based treatments. He pointed to a parallel shift among physicians that took place, he said, when medicine committed itself to science rather than to producing medical artists or gurus.

  8. Need to find a therapist well-grounded in the latest research? Experts recommend interviewing prospective providers before starting therapy, especially if you are looking for a specific type of treatment. Useful questions include:

    ¶What kind of trainings have you done, and with whom?
    ¶What professional associations do you belong to? (If you’re looking for a C.B.T. therapist, for instance, ask whether the therapist belongs to the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, where most top C.B.T. researchers are members.)
    ¶What do you do to keep up on the research for treating my condition?
    ¶How do you know that what you do in treatment works?
    ¶Do you consider yourself and your approach eclectic? (Therapists who subscribe to an eclectic approach are less likely to adhere to evidence-based treatments.)
    ¶What manuals do you use?
    ¶What data can you show me about your own outcomes?
    “A clinician who can’t tell you how many patients get well isn’t going to care that much if you get well,” said Dr. Waller.


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