When Yossi’s depression was mistaken for Atzlus by his mashgiach

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    The problem: Some educators are unaware of how common teen depression is & instead think a child is just ignoring them.
    Case in point.
    Yossi began missing shacharis at his yeshiva & began coming late to first seder. The Mashgiach is a pious man who is well versed in the classic mussar works as well as a Talmid chacham. Unfortunately for Yossi, the mashgiach could not differentiate between depression & atzlus & he began berating Yossi on a daily basis for his lateness & lack of yera’s shomayim. Yossi began to fall into an even greater depression & began davening shacharis in his room each morning, our mashgiach saw a bachur falling in yeras shomayim in a terrible way & decided it was time to put an end to this. He sat down with the Rosh Hayeshiva & explained to him how no matter how many ways he tried to correct Yossi, he refuses to accept his mussar & it’s time to wake him up.
    The Rosh hayeshiva dutifully called in Yossi & let him know how terrible his lack of self discipline is getting up late & left him feeling as though no one understood how much pain he was going through.

    Yossi is no longer in that yeshiva, for awhile Yossi was in no yeshiva, Yossi has never recovered from being accused of atzlus & a lack of yer’as shomayim, when he was really going through clinical depression.

    The solution: We need organizations like Relief Resources to reach out to mechanchim of all age children to better identify when a child is emotionally unwell rather than intentionally ignoring rebuke.

    The little I know

    The problem is actually greater than this instance demonstrates. Nearly all observed behavior in yeshiva is addressed in a disciplinary way. There is definitely a place for discipline. But a huge portion of the observed behaviors are problem issues that individuals experience, and these need to be healed, not punished. So much of what prompts punishment is really a child’s cry for help. Sensitive mechanchim know exactly what I mean. The run-of-the-mill mechanchim, who entered the field because they needed a job and were not qualified for anything else (including chinuch) tend to view their biggest challenge as classroom management, not teaching. And the most direct way to control a class is with reward and punishment (the latter far more often). It doesn’t teach anything, but makes the classroom less chaotic, and easier to manage.

    Proper training for mechanchim at all levels would include some introduction to mental health. They are not required to become expert diagnosticians, and certainly not therapists. But they should recognize flags and know how to raise issues for referral or professional evaluation. And this possibility always needs to be considered before punishment or shaming. Accusations, if false, and terribly damaging.

    What would have likely happened if the Mashgiach or the rebbe would have looked to be mekarev the bochur? It might have failed, since it was a clinical depression, but the damage of being considered a porek ohl would have been forestalled.


    Haimy: You have insight into so many problems and the insight how to address them. So instead of posting here why don’t you go to either the Roshei Yeshivos or those who have influence in the community and discuss it with them ?


    But can organizations like Relief Resources be trusted when there is such a stigma about mental health? If someone had a bad experience with them, they wouldn’t tell anyone. They would be ashamed.


    Is this the month of bash the chinuch system?

    The little I know


    Relief Resources makes referrals to mental health professionals and facilities. They are constantly updating their resources, vetting every one to the best they can. They are the best stop when looking for the best professionals in the many niches of the field. What I do not know is whether they are equipped with the staff to educate the yeshivos and their faculties to be better observers of mental health issues. If yes, kol hakavod. But there are many other avenues to connect mental health professionals with yeshivos. I would hope that these are being utilized.


    I guess your observation about being the month for chinuch bashing is correct. In reality, chinuch, with its many serious problems, has many successes and achievements. These are not fodder for commenting on the web. Maybe there should be a showcase for hakoras hatov to those stellar mechanchim who do their jobs well. This tends to happen posthumously, such as the recent petira of Rav Aharon Brofman ZT”L, someone I personally knew to be a gift to the field of chinuch, and now a tragic loss to the entire chinuch world.

    What makes chinuch bashing so exciting is that there is enough to go around, to resounding denial of the chinuch field that believes that only parents and kids make mistakes. When you hear of a mechanech admitting a mistake, it is newsworthy. Yes, it does sometimes happen, and these individuals are the real superstars of the field.


    The mental health field though is one where it’s hard to vet. Especially when it’s for children, whose parents are the ones choosing and giving feedback.


    Mussar can only help someone strong enough to overcome their own emotional difficulties. However, severe issues, as well as clinical ones, require outside help – as we say ‘a prisoner cannot free himself from jail’. We definitely need our leaders to understand and recognize symptoms. Maybe in the old days, hundreds of years ago, there was a close relationship between Rebbe and student, where the Rebbe already knew all the issues facing the student. Today, everyone is barely a number. I’m not blaming the Rebbe’s, I just don’t think there is enough time or ability to properly connect.


    apushatayid “Is this the month of bash the chinuch system?” – I think Haimy meant this in a constructive way, and it is a very valuable point, so I don’t think it should be characterised as a “bash” which implies destructive negative criticism


    Haimy great point.

    Something I’ve been confused about for a while is the classical Jewish approach to suicide. Nowadays the prevalent attitude is to sympathise with what the person must have been going through and how terrible it must have been for them, just with a proviso that they still shouldn’t have. Yet the classical approach seems to be as though they killed themselves for fun, or because they couldn’t control the suicide taavo. There doesn’t seem to be an understanding of the depression which is presumably what caused 99% of these suicides.


    While depression is a common cause of suicide, there are also suicides that are committed in the name of honor.


    Many many years ago, way before the frum community could ever dream of such a thing as Relief (they barely had meds in those days like today), my menahel told me to go to a psychologist for my depression. (I went, he was a lousy psychologist but that’s beside the point).
    When I did poorly on my bechina my menahel explained to me how in the stock market there is something called a correction which means the stocks are artificially undervalued but will rise in price any day. A good investor knows where to invest then so he can buy low and sell high. My rebby told me how “I’m a good investor and I know you about to have a correction so I am investing in you and giving you a 100 based on the future”.
    My rebby was from those that understood. There are others that understand too though but definitely not all. I feel for those that had rebbeyim that didn’t get it.

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