Letters to the editor: Sept. 11, 2019


Psychiatric medications can save lives

Moritz Farbstein’s Sept. 4 letter points out that the pharmaceutical industry has been funding the “stop the stigma of mental illness” campaign, and not for altruistic reasons. They want to sell more drugs, and he’s right about that.

Unfortunately, Mr. Farbstein erroneously concluded that “the real stigmatization is coming from those that benefit from labeling behaviors as diseases to be ‘cured’ or ‘treated’ despite the complete lack of medical/biological evidence to support them.” 

I am a psychologist. Cognitive behavior therapy and other nonpharmacological interventions for psychiatric disorders have been the focus of much of my clinical research career. I am not a psychiatrist, I do not prescribe drugs, and I have never received any support from a drug company. Nevertheless, I know from decades of research and clinical experience that medications are essential in the treatment of many psychiatric conditions.


Some psychiatric drugs are overprescribed, and some of the ads we see on television exaggerate their benefits. Also, some patients do not respond to standard psychiatric drugs, and some experience intolerable side effects. That’s all true. 

But it’s also true that medications often make a tremendous — even life-saving — difference in the lives of people who suffer from major psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe major depression. 

I appreciate Mr. Farbstein’s concern, but I would urge him and other readers of the Jewish Light to recognize that medications play a legitimate and valuable role in evidence-based mental health care.

Kenneth Freedland, St. Louis

Who will speak for them?

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a 36-year-old father of three from the Eshkol region in Israel, bordering Gaza, talk of his life there. He spoke about what life is like for him and his family and those of his community, a farmer of potatoes, radishes and the like, living next to Gaza. 

He spoke of the hundreds of families just like his. As I listened to him talk, I wondered, who is going to tell his story? Who in the St. Louis Jewish clergy will tell his story? Who in the St. Louis Jewish lay leadership will tell his story? 

Who will tell his story, and the story of all those like him, living where he has to tell his young daughters not to touch the pink balloons because they are attached to incendiary devices? Not to touch a children’s book written in Hebrew that has been hollowed out, filled with explosives, and floated over to drop on their farms for an unwitting child or adult to pick up. Who will tell the story of 18-year-olds who still are wetting their beds because of the daily nightmare that is their existence? 

Who will tell the story of these Israeli families without beginning and ending the conversation with the words “occupation” and “oppression” as I see almost daily when Israel is discussed in the media and social media platforms? 

Who will explain, give voice, and provide a platform for them as they are asked “Why do you live there?” and the father responds, “Because it is my home.” Who? 

Bruce Weingart, St. Louis

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