Yesterday Senator John Fetterman’s office announced that he had checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of clinical depression.
Sen. Fetterman’s wife Gisele said: “After what he’s been through in the past year, there’s probably no one who wanted to talk about his own health less than John. It’s not easy for anyone to be open about mental health challenges. But I am so proud of him for asking for help and taking steps to get the care he needs.”
It’s important that Sen. Fetterman is being open about the current situation. For too long mental health challenges have been considered by many in our society to be a sign of weakness that can be overcome if you simply try hard enough and set your mind to it. Over the course of my rabbinic career I have had discussions with many people who were reluctant to seek mental health care or, having seen a psychiatrist and being prescribed medication for depression, were reluctant to take their medication. My response has generally been along the following lines: if you broke your arm, would it recover if you just tried hard enough? Would it be a sign of weakness to wear a cast?
Dr. Mark Komrad, the spouse of our Hazzan Kim Komrad, wrote a book on helping someone you know get the counseling that they need. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.
But one of the most effective ways to encourage people to get the help they need is for those of us who have suffered from depression and taken or currently take antidepressants to talk about it. Some of you know, but many of you do not, that I have suffered from depression on and off during my adult life. My most recent bout of major depressive disorder began shortly after the High Holidays of 2021. As a congregation we were dealing with a lot of challenges and a very difficult High Holiday period, and simultaneously my father was severely ill and nearing death. I sought help, which I have been receiving continuously since then, and I continue to take an antidepressant and receive therapy. I share this because I want you to understand that anyone can suffer from depression, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and the right thing to do is to seek the help that you might need.
Keleigh and I want to thank everyone who reached out after Wednesday’s message where I mentioned that she had suffered a fracture in her right foot. We saw an orthopedic surgeon yesterday and she is currently in an orthopedic boot. The surgeon will see her again in about a month to check on her progress but he believes the chances are good that the boot will be sufficient for the fracture to heal without surgical intervention.
We are once again having a sponsored Kiddush after services this Shabbat. If you are planning to attend, it is really helpful for you to register at https://forms.gle/j2mVMi6iQcwVoJGD6. If you have not registered and decide at the last minute to attend, you will of course still be joyfully welcomed. However, advance registration helps us to determine how much food to prepare for Kiddush without being wasteful. Your assistance is appreciated -- from weekly experience I can tell you that filling out the registration form literally takes less than 30 seconds.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian