Depression is a huge epidemic in our world today, and we can all be guilty of not taking it seriously enough. We as Christians struggle in trying to figure out how to deal with this kind of thing, when we should be the ones leading the way. Unfortunately, as medical science and psychology continue to make more advances to help explain the causes of depression, the church falls behind as they try to grapple with how to address the issue. It’s almost as if the church is worried of accepting too much science as they think that will somehow dampen the role of the church and God in a person’s healing.
But the truth is that this black and white stance that we often adopt isn’t effective at all; it actually underequips us to help those who suffer from the grips of depression. The approach that I believe is needed is to realize that science is God’s gift to us, which is the basis for this very website. Didn’t God, the one who created all things, also create science? He intended for His creation to benefit its inhabitants. God can and often does work through doctors, psychologists, and counselors to help those who are suffering.
What we need is a combined approach along with prayer, support groups, and an openness to hard topics like depression.
Dealing with depression the right way provides a tremendous service to all of those going through this. So here are the steps that we should be taking:
1. Provide a multi-approach treatment to help those suffering with depression.
Some people respond to anti-depressant medications such as Zooloft and Paxil while others don’t. Some people might respond to individual counseling while others may do better in group therapy. The important thing here is to understand that each person is different and has a unique set of factors that contribute to their depression. With this in mind, it’s important to provide easy access to all of these resources to see which form of treatment(s) work the best for a person’s depression.
2. Allow people with depression to openly talk about it.
For many people in the church, it can be difficult to openly talk about their depression. I think this is a result of a few things:
1) The church’s inability to take a stand on mental illness and address it, and 2) the stigma that mental illnesses like depression are caused by a person’s sin.
As the church, the more we address depression, the more comfortable people with depression may feel about coming forward in order to get help. Additionally, faith-based support groups may be a great way to reach out to depression victims and simply let them talk and seek guidance.
3. Educate more people in pastoral ministry about depression.
The best way to deal with anything is first to understand it. We can better address the issue if we know more about it and how to approach it. It would be a huge benefit to teach spiritual leaders the latest evidence-based techniques so that they can in turn identify and counsel those with depression.
4. Change the way depression is viewed by the church.
We have to stop treating depression as a solely spiritual disease. While depression can definitely arise from temptation or doubt, it’s also a physical battle. Telling people you’ll pray for them simply won’t cut it; we have to reach out in effective, realistic ways. Often we see depression as a taboo topic because we assume those with depression are somehow less holy than us.
This mindset is dangerous, and we need to treat victims with love and not just pity. One of the biggest things that keeps people with depression from approaching the church about this problem is fear of judgment by others. Grace and compassion should be evident in the way we approach and understand those who are dealing with depression.
As you can see, there are several steps we can take to reach out to depression victims and help be a part of the cure. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
We are called to use what God has blessed us with to bless others and lead them to the infinite love of Christ. Depression is an uphill battle, but we believe in a God that can move mountains. He has given us all we need to be the light of the world; so why would we ever stop shining for Him?
How do you think the Church should address Depression?