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Depression and Mental Health

By Rebecca Aikens

1. Major depression.

The Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling by Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins defines clinical depression as a complex biomedical, psychosocial, and spiritual disorder. Depression may be independent or in combination with other psychological disorders or physical disorders. Fifty percent of the time it is associated with anxiety and sometimes misdiagnosed as an anxiety disorder. Such things as chronic pain, dementia, and drug and alcohol abuse are common causes of depression. 


For the purposes of this blog, the above definition is as far as we will go clinically. Only a clinically trained person can accurately diagnose a major depressive disorder. The purpose of the article is to empower and support untrained individuals to know the signs and symptoms of depression. 


Major depression is a disabling condition that interrupts a person’s routine life. Even the simplest of tasks, such as eating and sleeping, become difficult. This is where untrained individuals can come alongside someone and try to get them the help they need. The fact is 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide.


2. Recognize and support others.

Characteristics of major depressive disorder are a low mood accompanied by low self-esteem and a loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities. This can occur in adults, teens, and children. The causes can vary from a chemical imbalance in the brain to life changes or stressors. Depressed individuals will often isolate themselves. Pharmacological treatment is sometimes necessary, depending on the severity of the depressive disorder. 


Always, always, always call family or friends and report anyone that has suicidal ideation to the police. Never leave someone alone who has expressed that they have a plan to kill themselves. Individuals that talk about not wanting to live are different from those who have a thought-out plan. If they have a plan to harm themselves or others there is a concern of danger. In this case you must act. Inform the suicidal person of what you must do.


Take notice of anyone who begins to act differently. If their behavior and actions are contrary to what you usually see, make a point to talk to them. Try to find out what is going on. The one thing an untrained person can do is ask questions. Find out the kind of support the individual has. If they say they have no support, that is a red flag. If they have support, find out who their support is. Get their names and the relationship to them.


People often will feel shame about their thoughts and will not be entirely honest. Christian care and concern must show a non-judgmental attitude. You can be the open door that they have been looking for. Talk to them. That is the most important thing that you can do. Do not be afraid. Pray, pray, and pray some more. 


Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in conversation with others. God put you there to be the hands and feet of Christ. You are capable of managing what God has entrusted you with. Be alert to the signs and symptoms of depression. Proceed with caution and confidence. God will equip you.


3. Bloom where you are planted.

My plea to you is to educate yourself. Your presence has the power to transform the people and the world around you. If you are still breathing, God has a purpose for you. Look at where God has placed you in ministry in the church? Where are you serving? Where has God used you in the past? Where have you struggled? This is your area of ministry. 


If you are not currently serving in a church and would like to, do not let fear stop you. Find someone you trust and discuss your desires. The pastor or a trusted friend can guide you to the right place of ministry. The church is full of hurting people that need a listening ear. 


One option may be to involve yourself in an established ministry. Decide to bloom where you are planted. Commit to doing something different. Look, learn, and listen to what other people are doing. Get out of your comfort zone and grow in your spiritual walk with the Lord. 


The only danger is to do nothing. The only limitation is yourself. Trust that the Lord is your source of power. God can and will strengthen you through the power of his Holy Spirit. All you must do is be willing to walk in fellowship with the Lord. 


Commit to reading the Bible. Study the Bible with others. Live out your Christian experience in community. Abide in the vine. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. . . apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


4. Where do we go from here?

There is no shame in seeking professional help if you are suffering from depression. Seek a qualified professional to assess your mental health needs. Everyone needs a counselor at some point in their life. There are many reasons to seek out help. The problem arises when an individual is unaware or unable to get the proper help needed. If you are hesitant, talk to a pastor or trusted friend. You are not alone.


If you are not where you want to be, take the next small step that leads to change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Believe that you can. Believe that God knows and cares about every little thing that concerns you. I challenge you to take a risk. Jesus is standing at the door knocking. Open the door. Be Adventurous! Be Creative! Be Brave! I Dare You! In Jesus name.