In any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of the [US] population… suffer from depressive illness. The economic cost for this illness is high, but the cost in human suffering cannot be estimated. Depressive illnesses often interfere with normal functioning and cause pain and suffering not only to those who have a disorder, but also to those who care about them. Serious depression can destroy family life as well as the life of the ill person. But much of this suffering is unnecessary. —National Institute of Mental Health: Depression
I am not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV. Nevertheless, I know a good deal about depression because I have fought against it for much of my life. I have experienced three episodes of major depression over the years, and each one was terrible. But, I fully recovered from each of these with the help of a caring mental health counselor, anti-depressant medicines, a supportive network of family and friends, and the comfort of my God.
Depression saps your energy and robs you of hope. It turns a sunny day dark, turns lies into truth, makes mountains from mole hills, and it can destroy your will to live. It can make you feel so powerless that you can’t even take the smallest steps necessary to get help.
Depression is one of those illnesses where a good friend can make all of the difference.
If you know someone whom you suspect is suffering from depression, be proactive. Talk to them and suggest that they get help. Follow up to be sure they have followed through. Be a pest. Be a friend.
There are many informative websites with information on depression, and your local library will be stocked with helpful books on the subject. I’ve read dozens in my attempt to understand and overcome this disease.
Two sites that I recommend are: The National Institute of Mental Health: depression symptoms, causes and treatment — great clinical information here, plus links to other resources; and Depression-Screening.org for self-tests and links to mental health organizations in your area.
If you don’t find a listing for your community, look in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book under Mental Health Services or in the emergency section of your phone book for the number of your local Crisis Hotline.
Depression is one of the most treatable of all mental illnesses. If you think you may be suffering from depression, get help. Make an appointment with your community mental health center for a screening and a referral. Life can be good again.
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope. —Romans 15:13, JB Phillips
Update: Bob Smietana of god-of-small-things has pointed me to a very fine article in the September issue of the Covenant Companion. The Monster in My Closet by Art Greco is the account of a pastor who struggles to escape depression. Christians struggle with what the proper faith-response should be to mental illness. Depression is nothing more than a confusion of the mind, we tell ourselves, so surely if I had more faith, if I spent more time with God, wouldn’t he remove this embarassing illness from me? What does it say about my faith if I need the help of a psychologist? If I have to take magic pills to find peace of mind? These are questions that deserve more discussion. Read Greco’s article and ask yourself what you would do if you were in his shoes?
Our magazine’s latest issue (http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/feature_article.html) is focused on depression. The cover story, called the Monster in My Closet (http://www.covchurch.org/cov/companion/article/0409Monster.PDF) is a gutwrentchling honest story of a pastors near breakdown with depression.