Comparing Dr. Eliezer Schnall’s data with Drs. David and Karyn Feinberg’s earlier data, one can indeed conclude that the glass is half full (“Orthodox Mental Health Needs Not Being Met: Study,” Aug. 20).
Significantly more people than 25 years ago, across the continuum of Orthodoxy, are acknowledging the need for mental health treatment and are seeking treatment. In 1985, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services opened its first residential program for individuals with mental illness with a total of 36 beds. Today, Ohel provides 200 such opportunities for Jewish people with mental illness, an indication that more families are seeking services.
In New York City, Ohel’s Flatbush clinic sees 1,000 patients for outpatient therapy and another 300 in a new center in Queens. To support families and to combat stigma, we have collaborated with Yeshiva University, Lander College and the National Council of Young Israel to provide mental health training to rabbinic students and to pulpit rabbis, as they are often the first people that families will approach with personal or psychological problems. These trainings enable rabbis to recognize symptoms of common psychiatric conditions and sensitize them to the distinction between their roles as pastoral counselors and their responsibility to make referrals to appropriate mental health professionals.
Most importantly all segments of our community, as well as the general community, need to de-stigmatize mental health issues. The stigmatization of mental illness is pervasive in other cultures as well. This will permit those who need treatment to access it.