Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression. Harvard Health Publications
Depression - a state of feeling sad; a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way
Can a Christian Get Depressed?
There were just some things we didn’t talk about in church. We don’t talk about sex and money for sure and we don’t talk about our hurts and issues because the church culture says that now that we are in Christ everything should be perfect in our lives. If it’s not, then there is something wrong with our faith. Because of that people with real issues never talk about them and never deal with them.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas like money or sex we often putting lipstick on a pig so to speak. We are masking how we hurt so we don’t get help. I use to hear some old time preachers and old time mothers talking about the church being a hospital well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it? Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not drug addiction or sex addiction, or depression?
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed. Talking about it can be uncomfortable because many of our church leaders don’t know a lot about it so we in the church don’t talk about it.
The fact is that we do have people who are depressed and with other issues who never talk about them. The church should be a place of healing but it is often a place of cover up. When people don’t address their issues what happens is somebody eventually finds out and it becomes rumor and gossip, the leadership finds out about it and asks that they step down from leadership or leave until the problem is solved, or they just leave because they can no longer keep up the charade.
Today’s Christians are not unique in becoming depressed either. Biblical giants had problems and bad days just as we do. There are even examples of some of those giants who admitted that they were depressed and wanted to die. Moses and Elijah for example.
Numbers 11:14-15 (HCSB)14 I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me.15 If You are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now. If You are pleased with me, don’t let me see my misery ⌊anymore⌋.”
1 Kings 19:3-4 (HCSB) 3 Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life. When he came to Beer-sheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, 4 but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “⌊I have had⌋ enough! LORD, take my life, for I’m no better than my fathers.”
Some might say yes but that was before Jesus and His sacrifice.
Well the great Apostle Paul sounded depressed
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (HCSB) 8 For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. 9 Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.
Each day men and women diagnosed with mental disorders are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demonic possession, weak faith, and generational sin.
Although depression may be the most well-known and widely understood mental illness, it's still mostly hidden within the church. It’s something that just because we don't discuss it much doesn't mean it's not a significant problem. Ten percent of American adults suffer from depression, and more than 38,000 people die by suicide each year. Plenty of the people represented by these statistics will be sitting in church next Sunday morning.
As Christians, we typically approach the subject of depression and mental illness completely wrong. We may think that a person simply isn’t connected enough with God, or that they could easily get over their depression if they really wanted to. However asking a person to be or think more positively when they are suffering from depression is like asking an injured bird to fly. Of course the bird would like to fly, but they can’t.Unfortunately, as science has proved time and time again, people cannot simply snap out of clinical depression. That’s exactly the disease of depression: being stuck in a negative loop of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that you can't brush aside. It is not a failure of the person, and God knows this.
So now that we realize that God fearing Christians can become depressed where do we go from here?
Depression is a Real Illness
Asking Christians that are suffering to stay positive doesn’t work. In reality, this only tears down the person down even further, because they likely have already tried to do that. If they had the will, motivation, energy to be happier, they would. Depression drains all of that from those it plagues. Such demands or advice, in fact, end up making the person feel guilty, and more miserable, since they understand what needs to be done, and everybody around seems to be able to do it, except that they can't, since it's not in their hands.
You would never tell someone with cancer to calm down, it will heal on its own, get over it, or that it’s all in their head. That would be completely irrational. Clinical depression is as real as any other physical illness where you will need to reach out for help. It requires professional doctors, constant effort, and an emphatic approach from a loyal support system.
One other major issue in the church is simply ignorance. Get some basic education, and learn to watch for symptoms of depression and warning signs that someone is considering suicide. Consider yourself at the front lines of mental-health care. Most people are going to turn to friends and family first to discuss the pain they are feeling, rather than go straight to a psychiatrists or general medical doctor.
Whatever you do, if someone decides to confide in you about their mental health struggles it’s important not to judge. Even if what they are saying is a result of their damaged emotions and flawed thinking and doesn’t make much sense, don’t criticize them. Never tell someone they shouldn't feel the way they do, or that what they feel is wrong, or that what they are doing, saying or feeling is contrary to Scripture. They feel badly enough already. In the future there may be a place for that, but in the depths of depression, a person needs love, reassurance and support, not judgment. Allowing a person to feel heard and understood without being judged is a powerful way to make them feel loved.
John 13:34-35 (NLT2) 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
When we see a church member that is depressed, we might have good intentions by encouraging them to become more positive but in reality that is pushing the problem to the side. Our love for another person in pain must be expressed by our empathy, our willingness to listen, our words and our demeanor. We must watch what we say and realize the negative impact it can have on others, even if we don’t fully understand what they might be going through. Next time someone brings up the topic of mental health, seek to understand and to help, instead of brushing it off as a non-issue.
Supporting Someone With Depression
How do you know if someone’s depressed?
Everyone experiences depression differently. It can be hard to spot the warning signs in someone else — even someone you’re close with. After all, many people don't even recognize symptoms in themselves. But everyone should know what to look for — and speak up if they think something’s wrong.
Depression warning signs
- Expressing a negative or hopeless outlook
- Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
- Changes in sleep or eating habits (sleeping or eating too much or too little)
- Sharing feelings of shame, guilt, or worthlessness
- Talking about death or suicide
Sometimes there really are no signs that someone is depressed. But if you think someone you care about might be struggling, talk to them about it now. Even if it’s just a gut feeling, or a small sign that something isn’t right, it’s a conversation that’s worth having.
By having the courage to speak up, we can help people find support and get better. And, in the most extreme cases, help people at risk for suicide stay alive.
Talking about depressionIt can be difficult to express how depression feels. It can also be scary to share something so personal with someone else — even someone you’re close to. But talking about how you feel with someone you trust is the first step toward feeling better.
Who to talk to
Talking to friends and family about your depression can be a very positive experience. Ideally, they’ll respond with encouragement and support. Think about people in your life who are thoughtful and caring — the good listeners, the people you feel close to, comfortable with, and know you can trust.
If you’re not sure about talking to friends or family, start with your doctor or a trusted counselor, teacher, or spiritual advisor. The important thing is to talk to someone about how you feel — just saying it out loud might give you some relief.
How to tell someone you’re depressed
Depression is different for everyone, and you know yourself best. There’s no script to follow, and you don’t have to share everything — only what feels right for you. Having an idea of what you want to say can make it easier. Here are some words to help start the conversation:
What to say
- “I think something’s wrong because I feel _____. I’m worried that I may be depressed. Can we talk?”
- “I want to talk to you about something that’s hard for me to put into words. I feel _____, and it’s been going on for a while now.”
- “I think I should see a therapist, but I’m scared. Can you help me find one and make sure I keep the appointment?”
- “I want to let you know that I’m living with depression. I may need extra support while I’m dealing with this.”
- “Even though I may seem fine on the outside, I feel _____ on the inside.”
- “You can support me by _____. That would be really helpful to me.”
Depression and suicide
Talking about this can be hard. It can also save lives.
Sometimes depression feels unbearable. Some people get to the point where life doesn’t seem worth living. Suicidal thoughts aren’t unusual, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. They’re a sign that it’s time to talk to someone.
Are you thinking of ending your life?
There is help, there is hope, and you are not alone. People are available 24/7 to listen, help, and get you the support you need. You can:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Text the Crisis Text Line — text “WORDS” to 741741
- Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Do you know someone who might need help?
Many people don’t realize that depression is treatable, and never reach out for support. And many people who die by suicide also have a mental or emotional disorder — depression being the most common. Other issues related to suicide are relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, and other life stressors and events.
If you think someone you know might be considering suicide, don’t wait until it’s too late — talk to them about it now. Asking if they’re having thoughts of suicide doesn’t increase their risk for acting on them — and it doesn’t make you responsible for their actions if they do. All you can do is ask the tough questions, help them find support, and do your best to keep them safe. If you’re not sure how to stop them from harming themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The best way to help prevent suicide is to know what to look for — and be prepared to intervene if you think someone may be in danger. Warning signs include:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated, or behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Having extreme mood swings
5 steps to help someone in crisis
- Ask the tough question. When somebody you know is in emotional pain, ask them directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- Keep them safe. Ask if they know how they would do it, and separate them from anything they could use to hurt themselves. If you think they might be in immediate danger, call the Lifeline. external page.
- Be there and listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless. Listen with compassion and empathy and without dismissing or judging.
- Help them connect to a support system — whether it’s family, friends, clergy, coaches, co-workers, a doctor, or a therapist — who they can reach out to for help.
- Follow up. Reaching out to them in the days and weeks after a crisis can make a meaningful difference — and even help save their life.
Get informed. Get involved.!