Terry’s Take… June Week 2: Depression

In the next few blogs I will be addressing two areas of  the “troubled heart” …namely depression and anxiety.

We all have “blue” days when we are a bit melancholy or lethargic. It’s common to the human condition. But the rates of people reporting longer term depression and anxiety has significantly risen in the post-Covid time. Note that links are to external websites.

Read what a recent Gallup Poll reveals:

Alarming rates of depression are not unique to the U.S. Globally, nearly four in 10 adults aged 15 and older either endure significant depression or anxiety themselves or have a close friend or family member who suffers from it. Other Gallup research has estimated that 22% of Northern American adults have experienced depression or anxiety so extreme that they could not continue regular daily activities for two weeks or longer, similar to a global rate of 19% and matching estimates found in Western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.

Clinical depression had been slowly rising prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but has jumped notably in its wake. Social isolation, loneliness, fear of infection, psychological exhaustion (particularly among front-line responders such as healthcare workers), elevated substance abuse and disruptions in mental health services have all likely played a role. While experiences of significant daily loneliness have subsided in the past two years amid widespread vaccinations and a slow return to normalcy, elevated loneliness experiences during the pandemic likely played a substantive role in increasing the rates of the longer-term, chronic nature of depression. Currently, 17% of U.S. adults report experiencing significant loneliness “yesterday,” projecting to an estimated 44 million people.

Among subgroups, women have historically reported substantially higher levels of depression than men. That this gap has notably widened further since 2017 is likely explained by several COVID-related factors, including the fact that women were disproportionately likely to lose their jobs or to exit the workforce altogether due in part to the pandemic driving children home from school or day care. Women also made up 78% of workers in all healthcare occupations in 2019, exposing them to enhanced emotional and psychological risk associated with the pandemic.

How does depression affect the Christian?

Not only can depression make you question God or feel distant from Him, but it can also make navigating a Christian community more difficult. Depression can be even more challenging for Christians because, unfortunately, there are misconceptions and stigmas associated with depression in many Christian communities.

When you or the people around you do not understand the reality of depression, it makes seeking help more difficult. Depression can already distort your perception of reality or make you doubt your judgment. It’s crucial to be able to recognize what is and is not true about depression.

Many well-meaning people may actually give you bad advice because they don’t understand depression.

Misconception: Depression is not real.
Reality: Depression is a real illness that impacts the brain’s ability to function as it should.

Misconception: Depression is a sin.
Variation: Being depressed means you are failing to trust God. Being depressed means you are failing to be joyful in all things or to give thanks to God.
Reality: Depression is an illness, not a sin.
If you get a cold or suffer from back pain or any physical illness, does anyone ever tell you that you’re being sinful or failing to trust God because you are in pain? It sounds unreasonable because it is. It’s just as unreasonable to say suffering from depression or any other mental illness is sinful or shows failure to trust God.

Misconception: Depression will go away if you pray hard enough or have enough faith.
Reality: Depression usually needs to be treated with more than prayer.
Again, depression is a serious illness. As with any illness, someone with depression should seek professional medical treatment. While God is capable of divinely healing mental or physical illness, He does not always intervene in that way. He provides other ways to heal. God gave people like doctors and mental health professionals the understanding and skills to help those who are suffering.

In our next few blogs we will look at how God’s Word can guide us through this very real valley.

Nothing is impossible with God and it is Him we will learn to lean upon.
So… Stay tuned!