Monday, November 16, 2009

A Tragedy and the Lessons to be Learned

About a week ago I wrote a post about suicide and depression warning of its dangers if it goes untreated. That post was generated by the very unfortunate incident reported in a New York Post article last week. A young Orthodox Jew - married just 48 hours earlier had apparently jumped to his death.

At the time - expressing sensitivity to the bereaved - some criticized my writing about such a tragic event so close to its occurrence and questioned the accuracy of Post story. The parents had hardly begun grieving and there I was speculating about the cause. But I wrote about it because of the important message that story conveyed.

The truth is that I still have no idea about the hard facts of the death. I didn’t have any then and I don’t have any now. So what I am about to say should be seen in that light. Once again the message is too important to ignore. I base my comments on the latest New York Post story. I happen to believe that story is probably very close to being accurate. But – as I said – I have no way of knowing for sure. At this point there is no way of finding out.

According to the article there is some hard evidence of a serious problem although it is hardly conclusive of anything:

A security video at the hotel shows him looking "agitated" in an elevator with his wife…

The Post also reported the following:

A source familiar with the tragedy said Borger had confided in close relatives that he was molested while a teen attending a yeshiva, possibly by a rabbi, but they never went to police.

Again - I apologize to the family if any of this is hurtful to them. Of course the real hurt came when they were informed of his death. My words no matter how hurtful cannot surpass that pain. And if the information reported is false it should not be hurtful to them at all because none of what I write appies to them.

But as I said there are hard lessons to be learned here.

If the facts as represented in a story in the New York Post are true, then the tragedy is even greater. It makes what I wrote all the more true. However it adds a dimension that I did not address in my original post – that of sexual molestation.

According to Post sources the young man in question confided in his newly married wife the fact that he was sexually abused and that it he could not perform his marital obligations – ‘he couldn't go near her’.

This was obviously quite a shock to his new wife and she questioned why he married her in the first place. He admitted that he had been wrong not to divulge it and apparently became so despondent that at 6:45 the next morning he jumped to his death.

Thoughts of suicide are unfortunately a very common reaction to severe clinical depression. Many who suffer from it actually attempt it and some succeed. His depression was caused by sexual molestation. There can be no doubt that he was severely depressed – especially now.

To the rest of the world he was the picture of joy. That is often the nature of those who suffer from clinical depression - even to their closest friends. Depressed personalities are notoriously capable of hiding it from everyone. That’s why there is such disbelief and outraged by those who thought they knew him including the rabbi who spoke at his funeral and close friends.

The only ones who are aware of such things are those who live with them. Like parents or spouses. If the facts as reported in the Post are true then in this case, the parents apparently knew. But instead of having him treated (and with the best of intentions) they married him off. They probably believed that this change in his life would cure him of his problems.

If he was getting any psychiatric treatment - the mental health professional treating him should have never let him get married. He either received no treatment - or it was grossly incompetent. Or he was indeed advised by his therapist not to get married - but neither he nor his family listened. If that is true then the therapist was probably bound by professional ethics not to reveal this situation to anyone. If that is what happened I suppose that would absolve him of any culpability.

Is there any question any more about the necessity of reporting abuse to the police? Is there any question any more of seeking professional help? And making certain that they are not quacks or in other ways incompetent? And is there any question any more that worrying about ‘the shiddach’ is wrong thing to do when fearing therapy might make these things public?

Not in my mind!