In the years since infamous Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff was arrested, and ultimately convicted, his sons, Mark and Andrew, who were also his employees, faced public shame and criminal investigation. The financial world they had been a part of all their lives had effectively excommunicated them.
The severity of the family's trauma reached new heights this weekend when the oldest son, Mark, took his life early Saturday morning, on the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest. Forty-six-year-old Madoff hanged himself in his New York SoHo apartment as his 2-year-old son slept soundly in the next room.
Mark Madoff "had been struggling" for years after his father's arrest and conviction, a source close to him told ABC News. "This wasn't something he thought of overnight."
The sons were executives in their father's company but claim to have known nothing about the Ponzi scheme until their father told them about it in December 2008, at which point they turned him in to the federal authorities. But both sons have been the subject of numerous lawsuits and persistent public scrutiny, as many believe they couldn't have been blind to the business dealings of their father.
Despite enduring the same loss of face and financial stability, the brothers handled the crisis in different ways. Andrew Madoff took up long-distance biking, and has been helping his fiancee, Catherine Hooper, with her consulting work. Mark Madoff, however, was distraught, believed he'd become unemployable and feared he could never rise above the scandal, sources close to the family told ABC News.
Mark Madoff was under admitted duress last year when he went missing, prompting his wife, Stephanie, to call the police. He was found in a New York hotel room registered under a different name. He told police at the time that he was going to seek help for his mental health problems.
What might explain the different reactions of these two brothers? Why has one been able to dig himself out of the disabling notoriety of his family's shame while the other remained tortured by it? Psychology experts weigh in on how the steps taken in the aftermath of trauma can help activate a person's natural resiliency and ability to recover.
The majority of people will experience a host of symptoms in the days and weeks following a traumatic event, which can include feelings of numbness, disconnection from others, anxiety and recurrent nightmares, psychology experts say, even though most people start to make a natural recovery in their own time.
"People are pretty resilient and get back into their lives without any type of intervention often, but a small percentage will have persistent symptoms and go on to develop post traumatic stress disorder," says Dr. Simon Rego, director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
For others, struggles with anxiety, intrusive thoughts and reliving the event make them feel hopeless, depressed, and, ultimately, suicidal. "The question is, how do you interrupt that downward spiral" before it gets to such a dire state, says Dr. Ken Robbins, depression expert at Stoughton Hospital in Stoughton, Wis., and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Re-engaging with life and rediscovering a purpose or use for one's talents is essential for recovery, experts say.