According to Jewish tradition, Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the month of Av) and the three weeks leading up to it are a time of mourning for the many tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout history in this time period, including the loss of both Temples in Jerusalem. As a result, many have adopted the custom of observing traditional symbols of mourning you would observe for the loss of a loved one during this time. Examples include not listening to music, buying new clothes or conducting weddings. Tisha B’av crests this time of mourning with the most severe mourning practices like fasting, refraining from wearing leather shoes and bathing, and reciting extensive prayers. In a way, these practices are reminiscent of depression, an experience often characterized with extreme eating habits, neglect of one’s bodily needs and refraining from things that spark joy within us (1). But unlike depression, this period of mourning ends abruptly the evening after Tisha B’av, and people quickly phase back into their normal routines. This shift, however, should serve as a reminder that, while we all can transition back into our daily lives from this period of mourning, many of those who experience clinical depression cannot.
Recovering from depression is never easy, and it looks different for everyone. For some, it is a long-term process that needs to be monitored and treated by a variety of medical professionals and medications. For others, it is rather quick but tiring. Treatment for depression varies from taking medication and seeing a psychologist long-term to hospital visits or even outpatient programs. For many, depression never truly goes away, and those who live with it experience a constant struggle to stay happy and healthy, while meeting their day-to-day needs.
It is important to recognize the particular challenges of depression treatment and its symptoms. For example, depression is known to affect sleep cycles, and many people with depression experience insomnia or exhaustion and sleep through the day while working at night. Depression is also known to affect eating habits and can cause major shifts in appetite that make it extremely difficult to regulate one’s food intake.
Of course, none of this should dissuade anyone who is experiencing depression from working toward recovery. While the process is an overwhelming and arduous one, returning to a semi-normal lifestyle is worth the work. But on Tisha B’av, every member of the community should recognize the challenges and experience the pain of someone living with depression on a daily basis. And just like on Tisha B’av — where we come together in community to show our support for one another — we should remember to be there for anyone living with depression all year round and to try to embody the mental health middah of כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה – Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh La Zeh – All Jews are Responsible for One Another.
- An Overview of Depression Recovery
- Recovering from Depression Can Be a Catch-22 | News & Resources
- Life After Depression: How to Thrive – What Helps. What Gets in the Way – Hey Sigmund
Esti Klein is a student at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and is spending her summer interning with the Blue Dove Foundation. Esti enjoys reading and writing fiction and spending time with her adorable puppy, Zuko.