In her Jpost column Uncommon Sense, Geulah responded to readers’ letters.
My brother-in-law Ilan, 26, married with one child, lives in a small settlement in Judea and is studying law and economics at a university. He was always quiet, but not introverted. He has always been a considerate person who makes decisions logically and views events in his life in proper perspective and with cautious optimism.
During the last year and a half there have been changes in his personality. He has had periods of depression, in various degrees. At first, both he and we attributed the depression to his concerns that Israel already has too many lawyers, and he may be unable to find decent work after he passes the Bar. Later, we blamed the depression on tensions connected to his driving on terror-prone roads.
After buying a special car-alarm system, Ilan’s mood improved greatly, maybe even too much. He suddenly began to see everything through rose-colored glasses, to drive recklessly and to spend money wildly “to compensate myself for the months of depression. And besides, I’m an economics student, and I understand money better than the rest of you.” He invested a significant sum (savings earmarked for something else) in risky stocks, which plummeted shortly afterwards. He crashed together with his stocks. Now, his depression is so deep that my sister is afraid to leave him alone, lest he commit suicide. Their family doctor recommended a psychiatric evaluation, but Ilan refuses. He says: “I don’t believe in all that psychiatric crap; and anyway, you would be depressed too if you had lost so much money.” I hate seeing him this way, and my sister is collapsing from exhaustion and worry. What should I do?
— Concerned Brother —
“Uncommon Sense” is not licensed to diagnose, and in any case, much more information is needed in order to determine what has happened to Ilan. However, a few things are very clear. Ilan is in agony (depression “hurts” as least as much as physical pain); he is not functioning well, and is endangering his educational, professional and social status and reputation; and the whole family is suffering. One the one hand, there are logical reasons for his sadness and anxieties (possible unemployment, terror attacks) and for his period of euphoria (his hopes when the government changed hands). On the other hand, it is possible that these objective circumstances are obscuring the true state of his mental health. If Ilan had developed these extreme mood swings without a visible cause, he or the family would surely have sought medical advice much earlier.
The good news is that Ilan can be helped and restored to good spirits and excellent functioning in a relatively short time (several weeks). First of all, he must have a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation (assessment of his behavioral and emotional state, blood tests and other physiological tests), so that his doctors can select the most appropriate treatment (probably anti-depressants or lithium, a medication that restores equilibrium to people with bi-polar disorders). Even though Ilan scoffs at psychiatry, he may agree to an evaluation, to please his wife who is caring for him with such patience and devotion, or because “there is nothing to lose”. Find any way you can to persuade him to make this step, so that this misery can end as soon as possible.