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Saturday, March 06, 2021
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(Courtesy of SMGH) Ask any American Jew to summarize every Jewish holiday and the answer will be: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” And the upcoming Purim (Hebrew for “lots”) holiday is the epitome of that statement, summarized as follows: Mordechai wouldn’t bow down to Haman the evil prime minister; Haman got mad and convinced the king to kill all the Jews; Haman casts lots (hence the name of the holiday) to determine the date he would carry out his plan (13th of Adar); Queen Esther, Mordechai’s niece saved the day by telling the real story to the king; Haman unsuccessfully begs Queen Esther for forgiveness; Mordechai becomes prime minister; Haman is hanged; word is sent to all the Jews of Persia—let’s feast!

We dress differently on Purim to minimize the embarrassment of the poor who go around collecting charity on this day—a day when we must give charity. We have four mitzvot to fulfill: reading the Megillah (Book of Esther), sending Mishloach Manot (gift baskets), the seudah (festive meal), and matanot la’evyonim (giving to the poor).

Purim is the most joyous day on the Jewish calendar, as it is a day “that was reversed from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day.”1 A requirement in the Talmud instructs that one should get so drunk that they can’t tell the difference between the phrases “Arur Haman” (cursed is Haman) and “Baruch Mordechai” (blessed is Mordecai). And we do take this requirement very seriously!

What’s going to happen this year? With COVID-19 still lurking, will there be gatherings outside one’s home? If so, will the partying be so intense that Hatzolah or 911 will need to be called? Or will the alcohol have the reverse effect and make some more depressed than they are now? And, since we are cooped up at home, will we spend extra time at the feast, which together with less exercise will cause some undesirable changes to our bodies?

These questions are especially troubling for those working at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic as we journey with patients and families who are struggling to find comfort amid harrowing experiences this past year. Family members were struck with COVID-19, facing long periods in the hospital, and some sadly didn’t make it. And we still don’t know when it’s all going to end.

“This Purim and in answer to the questions posed above, we want to assure the community that we have your backs,” said Dr. George Matyjewicz, St. Mary’s community liaison. “If you do celebrate too much, whether it be this one day or more habitually, we can help. For this one day, our Emergency Room is open to bring you back from that awful and unusual place that you ventured into (and hangovers are not fun). Remember: “Wine goes in and secrets come out.” So, when your friends are not talking with you after Purim, you’ll know why!

Often, having a few drinks leads to more drinks to relieve the stress of the day. Or, maybe it leads to trying something else to relieve stress or just to “feel good.” If individuals experience these symptoms, the Outpatient Behavioral Health Services may be able to help. Behavioral Health Services is licensed by the New Jersey Division of Mental Health, accredited by the Joint Commission, and is a member of New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA). Plus, St. Mary’s has just opened a new voluntary psychiatric medical unit for people who need more support.

It is important to note that there is a strong connection between mental illnesses and cardiovascular disease, which underscores the need for integrated care, according to a NJAMHAA2. Depression, anxiety and stress have been linked to the onset or exacerbation of heart disease and conversely, cardiovascular illnesses could lead to depression and other mental illnesses, according to the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Heart Association3.

While nearly 20 percent of Americans experience depression in their lifetimes, the rate is 50 percent among people with heart disease. In addition, adults with clinical depression have more than twice the risk of developing coronary artery disease or suffering heart attacks. Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that as many as 65 percent of individuals with coronary heart disease who have had heart attacks have also experienced depression.4

Additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease among individuals with mental illnesses are unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors. For example, individuals with mental illnesses are twice as likely to use tobacco, compared to the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Individuals with mental illnesses are generally more likely to consume alcohol and less likely to follow healthy diets or exercise.

Let be thankful for what we have, and continue to daven that the Moshiach will be speedily in our days!

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred—is among the top hospitals in America for health, quality, and patient safety. The hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high quality care to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Awards for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country, including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about St. Mary’s General Hospital visit www.smh-nj.com  or Facebook at www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.

For more information, contact Dr. Matyjewicz at [email protected]

1 Esther 9:22. As the days when the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month that was reversed for them from grief to joy and from mourning to a festive day-to make them days of feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.

2 https://njamhaa.org/2019-02-01-link-between-cardiovascular-and-mental-health-underscores-importance-o

3 https://www.apa.org/topics/chronic-illness/heart-disease

4 Same as 3

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