Do you remember learning how to swim? In your panic, you may have tried to fight the water, thrashing about and soon finding that it didn’t work. ‘Relax,’ said the instructor. ‘Take slow strokes. Trust me. You can do it. True, it’s different. You’re not used to moving in water. But it really can be done. Just don’t fight it.
‘I had been fighting it,’ says Yaakov. ‘Not the water but something else. Something much more scary. And there was no instructor to encourage me. I was all alone, or so I thought, too terrified to face it. Too traumatized to seek help. The woman I had married, the mother of my children, had metamorphosed into …into. I couldn’t even say the word. I was fighting it, trying to make believe it wasn’t there. Then one day I did what i should have done months ago. I called Ezer Mizion’s Mental Health Division. They understood immediately. I felt validated. I felt supported. I was no longer alone. They opened my eyes and helped me understand that accepting the reality and ‘going from there’ is not only possible but the only option that will allow us to continue living our lives. “Thanks to Ezer Mizion, I started dealing with my situation, both on an individual basis and in a group framework. I received the tools and strength I needed in order to cope. To people who are in my position, I want to say: We did not choose these ‘gifts.’ Hashem chose them for us. He gives us the gifts and He also gives us the strength to deal with the situation. Whoever thinks he can escape reality and conceal it is mistaken. Ezer Mizion is my light in this saga. They help me achieve a better reality. They have shown me that it is possible to deal with my challenges in a better way.
Avi was always our good boy. The reports we always received about him expanded the heart and filled it with pride. Avi always had to be the best boy in the class and get the highest grades. With hindsight, we should have been alerted to the problem but we were too busy enjoying all the joy. In elementary school, too, he was at the top. We had no doubt that he would go to a high school.
And then, the principal called us in for a talk. He claimed that for Avi’s sensitive personality, a yeshiva with warm, personal attention would be better than a huge, bustling yeshiva. He was very definite but we knew better, so we thought. We felt that Avi could manage in a bigger place, too, and that, on the contrary, he would flourish there. So we sent Avi to the Yeshiva that we’d wanted from the start.
At the beginning of December, we sensed that something was awry with Avi. In Tevet, we were worried, and in January, we got a call from the Yeshiva office to come urgently to take Avi home because he wasn’t feeling well. When I came, I found him in his room, staring at the ceiling. He was apathetic and hardly communicated. I took him directly to the family doctor. He referred us for some tests, but claimed that Avi appeared to be physically healthy and he was concerned that he was experiencing a mental health crisis.
The days that followed were too hard to bear. We didn’t know where to turn and how to help our precious young man who was wilting before our very eyes. He lay in bed and refused to go out even for prayers.
He barely ate anything and refused to shower or go for a walk. Nothing interested him. The smell in his vicinity was unbearable and the entire family was traumatized by the sounds and sights that emanated from his room.
We needed help desperately but how can we ask? We are the parents of a top student, aren’t we? We advise others less fortunate than us- those unfortunate people with problems? It can’t be that we have become them! it was so hard but our son, our dear son. we can’t let pride – that great destroyer of lives – get in the way of helping him. Then we remembered some bits and pieces we had heard about Ezer Mizion having a Mental Health Department. 100% confidential. Should we? But… Well, we did.
Of course, it wasn’t simple. there was much trial and error. The staff held our hand throughout the ordeal.Their sensitivity was amazing. Avi received the right therapy and we received the emotional support that was so vital.
During the last eight months, Avi’s functioning has improved tremendously thank G-d and he recently started learning in a yeshiva near the house, with a small number of boys. He gets warm, personal attention there and has already integrated into the social circle and resumed a schedule of three study sessionsa day.
I feel that Ezer Mizion saved Avi, me, and, actually, the entire family
When dementia strikes at a young age, the tragedy is twice as terrible. Life as it was until now changes, even turns upside down. Every small action becomes a challenge. The struggle is not simple for the patient and for the immediate family.
Roni Klein, 60, father of two, was diagnosed a year and a half ago with “frontal-temporal dementia.” Roni participates in a range of activities at Ezer Mizion’s activity club for young dementia patients. “When I got the diagnosis, I went into initial shock. But very soon, I decided to fight for what I still had. There was also terrible anxiety about the future.
“Ezer Mizion’s club is a ray of light for me. There are wonderful people here and it makes me very happy to come, meet people who have become my friends and understand me and my need. I really enjoy the fitness program, music, art and gardening activities.”
The Tzipporah Fried Family Support Center runs support groups for spouses of young dementia patients. At this time, an additional support group is opening for the children of young patients.
Tzipporah Fried Family Support Center, a project of Ezer Mizion’s Geriatric Services, provides an array of support services and assistance to Alzheimer’s patients and their families, creating a unique response for this target population.
Just like that, with a simple message, without a lot of noise, a member of one of the Ezer Mizion branches sums up the events of one evening:
In the middle of a Daf Yomi shiur (daily study session of Talmud), a friend, one of the participants , asked me to come with him right then (!) to a house where the wife had called for urgent help. As Ezer Mizion volunteers, we often receive calls like this. The woman was frantic saying her husband was having an anxiety attack. We were qualified to handle the situation and raced out. Continue reading A Cushion for Every Need
It’s all hands on deck in the battle of the current world wide war on the coronavirus. Ezer Mizion, known for its International Jewish Bone Marrow Registry, is focusing the energies of all of its numerous departments into dealing with countless crises brought about by the virus. We spoke with Dassy in Israel who is at the epicenter of it all. Continue reading Corona: Speaking from the Field
Always on the lookout for means of fulfilling the needs of vulnerable segments of the population, Ezer Mizion has recently opened a new physical fitness center for men dealing with mental health issues. The center focuses on weight lifting, muscle strengthening, and nutrition training. Its long-term mission is to prepare the client for gainful employment, enabling him to gradually re-enter mainstream society. Continue reading Serving Israel’s Mentally Ill
Hundreds of rabbis from across the country participated in a “Medicine and Halachah (Jewish Law) ” conference at the Convention Center in Haifa, organized by Maccabi Health Services. Maccabi is committed to provide uncompromising professional and efficient medical service, while adapting its advanced services and making them accessible to the religious public. This is accomplished through an open line of communication, sensitivity to the special needs, and constant consultation with the community’s rabbinic leaders. Maccabi proves, in practice, that ‘medicine according to halachah’ is possible and desirable. This conference created a positive connection between the religious communities and Maccabi. Continue reading Medicine and Jewish Law
Stigma — one of the more difficult aspects of mental illness that patients and their families encounter again and again — is the subject that took center stage at the annual seminar held by the Ezer Mizion Mental Health Division’s Family Counseling Center, together with Israel’s Health Department.
The well-known authority in the field, Professor Avraham Weizman, head of the Mental Health Center research unit at Geheh and director of the Flossenstein Center for Medical Research at Tel Aviv University is deeply involved with people in this sector and is in constant contact with Chananya Chollak, Ezer Mizion International Chairman. Prof. Weizman discussed the effects of stigma in the overall protocol when dealing with mental health patients. The statistical data and studies he presented were intended to refute many of the common stigmas regarding people with mental illness.
Chananya Chollak spoke about the damage that concealment causes by preventing people from obtaining the appropriate treatment in time. He called upon the public to display responsibility and get help as soon as possible, so as to increase the chances of optimistically resuming life routine. How many times have professional staff members cried to him, saying, “If only he had come to be treated earlier! The prognosis would have been so much better.”
Prominent community leader, Rabbi Moshe Stein, a dayan on Rav Wosner’s beis din, discussed the halachic (Jewish Law) issues relating to mental health. He emphasized that it is important to present the true story to the Rabbis who will be discreet in advising when and how much should be revealed and to whom.
Rabbi Avraham Rubinstein, mayor of Bnei Brak, greeted the seminar attendees and lauded the tremendous contribution of Ezer Mizion in general, and particularly their Mental Health Division, to the Jewish people. Ezer Mizion offers a variety of psychological support services and rehabilitative programs for people suffering from psychological disorders, emotional issues and mental illnesses. These services include:
A Big Brother/Sister Program that pairs individuals suffering from mental illnesses with trained mentors who provide companionship, offer assistance with basic daily function, and teach the skills necessary for independent living.
Rehabilitative employment centers that provide mentally handicapped people with basic vocational training and employment, and ease their integration into free market employment.
A psychological referral team that recommends appropriate psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors to people grappling with emotional disturbances, mental health issues or difficult relationships.
A network of psychiatrists and psychologists throughout Israel who provide their services at a discount to patients referred by Ezer Mizion.
A 24-hour crisis hotline for non-medical emergencies, including mental health crises such as suicide attempts or severe manic episodes.
As the seminar closed, the hundreds of participants expressed great satisfaction at having received so much knowledge and empowerment in the subject of mental health as a whole, and specifically in the area of stigmas. Attendees hope to have more similar lectures which will gradually affect public opinion and look forward to a time when mental illness will present no more of a stigma than any medical condition.
Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.
Yona is the wife of a schizophrenia patient. Life hasn’t been easy for her. Dealing with mental illness is a frightening nightmare only made worse by the loneliness. Mental illness is not something you share with the neighbors. On the outside, she is a bubbly mother of a large family, discussing the woes of a washing machine breakdown with another mother as they sit on the park bench together. On the inside, however, she is slowly falling apart because of a different type of breakdown – the breakdown of a strong, supportive husband, the breakdown of a family. Yona is a heroine, trying to go it alone but she worries how long she can go on. When will she herself break down?
Bravely, she had made her way to the Ezer Mizion office. Maybe. Maybe they can help a bit. What she received was so much more than she had hoped for. Continue reading In Lieu of Mommy
Mental illness, as the name implies, is an illness. And, again, as the name implies, it can be cured. But, unlike strep throat, a mental health patient harbors fears of facing the cure and rejoining the world. His rehabilitation can be greatly delayed due to his inability to take those frightening steps. Continue reading Moving Forward