Every person experiences down days. It is unfortunate that we have only one word that we apply to those short-lived blue moods and to the disabling illness of clinical depression. When we have down days, by mental effort, exercise, a conversation with friends, a long hot bath, or other forms of self care, we can pull ourselves out of it. Spiritual practices such as prayer can be a significant resource in such times.
When someone has the courage to talk about feelings of hopelessness, affirm their courage and extend extra care.
Clinical depression is a physical illness of the brain affecting both biochemistry and brain structure. Symptoms include sad, anxious,or empty feelings, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt. It can interfere with our ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life, but usually responds to medical treatment. It can sometimes slowly improve without medical intervention. However, like the physical illnesses that affect other organs, it doesn't often get better from will power, or even faith, alone.
In Every Church
Depression is very common, and it often goes hand in hand with anxiety. Because they are so common, depression and anxiety can be found in every faith community, whether acknowledged publicly or not.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, about 18 percent of the U.S. adult population experiences anxiety to the degree that it negatively impacts day-to-day living. They report that about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population experiences depression in any given year, and for almost half of these people, the impact is severe. Frequency of both anxiety and depression are even higher in adolescents.
God's good gifts to persons with depression and anxiety include psychiatric care, medication, and psychotherapy. When we accept such gifts, we may be in a better position to appreciate the other good things God is doing in our life, and to share God's love with those around us.
A Healing Community
A community of support is another important presence when living with disabling depression and anxiety. This presents church congregations with a big opportunity for caring and healing ministries, but faith communities may need prompting to see this opportunity and take action.
Congregations can make mental health conditions something we regularly talk about, pray about, and lament over in our public worship. When someone has the courage to talk about feelings of hopelessness, affirm their courage and extend extra care. In these ways, we can embody Christ’s love and share in the healing of the many among us who suffer from depression or anxiety.
Explore the stories and articles on this page to hear from people who live with depression and learn more about how to be a supportive friend.
Related articles on our website:
Congregations and Mental Illness
Mental Health and Mental Illness
About Anxiety Disorders:
National Institute of Mental Health
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Anxiety and Depression Association of America