On Yom Kippur I shared a personal story with the congregation about my friend Seth who recently passed away. Until he died, I was not aware that he suffered from depression and mental illness. It was only after he took his own life one week ago that his extended community of friends discovered what he chose to keep inside. Since he passed away last weekend, our circle of friends has been in touch with each other, sharing stories and memories, sharing our shock and disbelief and doing the best we can to comfort one another.
I appreciate the opportunity to share Seth's story with the congregation as an attempt to raise people's awareness of mental illness and to encourage all of us to speak more about depression. I am very grateful to all of you who have contacted me and Sara in the past few days to express your condolences to us, to share your own personal stories of people you know who also suffer from depression and mental illness and to check in on me. It has been a challenge for me to contemplate the enormity of this loss and to send my own messages of condolence to Seth's family, his wife and two young adult children, who live in Israel and who are devastated by this loss.
When I spoke on Yom Kippur, I did not mention that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. I know that I highlighted two incredible agencies in our community who can help people in need including Jewish Family and Children's Services of Mercer County and The Trinity Counseling Services. In my years in this community, as I listen to people share their own personal stories of mental illness, as I listen to parents express their concern for their children who struggle with some personal emotional or mental challenge, I know that many people find strength and support from our local Jewish agencies. However, I also know that others want to remain private and do not want to share with people they know, which is why I encourage people to reach out to Trinity Counseling Services. I am on the board of this incredible institution and through my work there I have learned a tremendous amount about how so many people suffer in our greater community and how Trinity Counseling (TCS) has literally saved lives and saved families. To learn more about their work, I encourage you to go online to https://trinitycounseling.org/ and see the services they provide. For some people, I may be helpful to make the introduction to the staff at TCS and for others, you may be more comfortable contacting them directly. In addition to the support people find at JFCS or TCS, I am also available any time to listen, support and do what I can to anyone who suffers from depression or has a family member who does.
I shared the story of my friend Seth because I am grieving and because I want to do what I can to help others avoid the pain that he faced and his family now faces. I will continue to pray for everyone who is need of healing and support and mental health assistance. I am proud of the fact that our community has many great places for people to turn and where they will receive the best confidential care. We all need to be more comfortable talking about this difficult topic and making ourselves more aware of the right place for people to turn when they need these services. Thank you for helping me and I am grateful for every opportunity I have to help others. What an incredible community we have.
Rabbi Adam Feldman
P. S. - on a very different note, I want to thank everyone who brought in food for our Kol Nidre food drive to support Arm in Arm. It looks like we collected more food this year than ever before. I am very proud of all of us.