By Zvi Gluck
If I thought things couldn’t have gotten any worse after dealing with the death of a promising 22-year-old young man on Wednesday, I was wrong.
Because Thursday brought with it more grief – an 18 year-old boy dead of an overdose.
I wish I could post the pictures of the 77 young men and women who have died since Rosh Hashanah. When we hear stories like these, we automatically think of wild-eyed individuals with unkempt hair, the kind of person that when he gets on the subway, you think silently to yourself, “Please don’t sit next to me.”
But that’s not who we are talking about. We are discussing beautiful young people with promising futures that will never be realized because they are tormented by unseen demons that bring with them catastrophic, irreversible results.
I wish you could see their faces. All 77 of them.
When I started keeping track of the number of lives lost, I was hoping it would bring awareness. And it has, to some extent. People are starting to wake up and to appreciate the enormity of this problem. But then there are the others.The ones who tell me that I have no business discussing sexual abuse, mental illness and addiction in the Jewish community.
Really? Should we continue sweeping these problems under the rug and pretending they don’t exist? Should we just shake our heads sadly and go on living our lives as if nothing has happened? When are we going to wake up and realize that this problem is real and isn’t going to go away unless we face it head on?
If I sound angry, it is probably because I am. I am just the messenger here and if people want to criticize me and get mad at me, that is totally fine. But let me tell you something. We are currently holding at two deaths a week for the last ten months. How many people in our community have to die before we finally decide to do something?
This isn’t a problem that is going to be solved overnight. This is a war that has to be fought one battle at a time and we can only turn the tide if we open our eyes to those around us.
If you see someone suffering, be it from sexual abuse, mental illness, addiction, or anything else that seems off, DO SOMETHING. Reach out to them, find them someone to talk to or try to get them professional help. The resources are out there but someone has to take that first step. Don’t assume that things will work out on their own because in cases like this, they rarely do.
Each one of us has to do our part and if we stand strong and look out for each other, maybe we can stop this deadly epidemic. Open your eyes and open your heart. And who knows? Maybe the life you save will be that of someone you love.
Zvi Gluck is the director of Amudim Community Resources, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the Jewish community and has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 15 years. For more information go to www.amudim.org.