Stereotypes say Orthodox Jews avoid mental health treatment. The science says otherwise.
A new study counters the assumption that Orthodox Jews are reluctant to seek treatment for mental illness.
It also concludes that when experiencing lower grade anxiety and depression, they pursue professional help more so than the general population.
Writing in this month’s issue of the journal Transcultural Psychiatry, the study’s authors note stereotypes of Orthodox Jews in the popular press that have characterized them as “anachronistic, resistant to science and medicine, socially exclusive, and narrow-minded.”
The evidence shows otherwise, the authors conclude: “mental health concerns are dealt with in a similar manner among Orthodox Jews and other individuals, even among those identifying with more traditional ultra-Orthodox groups.”
Get the Forward delivered to your inbox. Sign up here to receive our essential morning briefing of American Jewish news and conversation, the afternoon’s top headlines and best reads, and a weekly letter from our editor-in-chief.
The study looked at 191 Orthodox Jews (134 ultra-Orthodox and 56 modern Orthodox) and 154 subjects who formed a control group that included Catholics, Protestants, non-Orthodox Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and those with no religious affiliations.
Participants in the study, which was approved by the McLean Hospital/Mass-General-Brigham Institutional Review Board, ranged in age from 18 to 75 and 61% were female.
Compared to the control group, Orthodox patients presented similar diagnostic profiles, attended a similar number of sessions with a mental health professional and were as likely to use psychiatric medication.
The authors – Steven Pirutinsky, an associate professor at Touro College Graduate School of Social Work, and David Rosmarin, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School – stressed that there were “no differences” in their findings between modern and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The willingness of Orthodox Jews to seek help for mental health issues, the authors suggested, may stem from the high value placed upon “introspection and self-knowledge” in their communities, as well “the historic role of mentorship in Jewish personal problem-solving.”