3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. While the exact cause of depression isn't known, a number of things can be associated with its development. Generally, depression does not result from a single event, but from a combination of recent events and other longer-term or personal factors (Beyond Blue).
I remember my therapist saying to me that Depression comes from your past - what has happened to you and anxiety is about our future - the fear of what could happen to us. Depression however, is often caused by the mix of recent events and other longer-term or personal risk factors.
Depression and Anxiety are escalating around the globe at alarming rates and it doesn't stop at the doors of the church.
Sometimes Christians are not always very good at understanding the issue or being helpful. Sometimes we mask our confusion with religiosity instead of living with one another in understanding as Paul exhorts us to do.
We have been given beautiful grey brain cells and it's really important that we exercise them and become educated on these issues so that we can be a help in time of trouble. If you want to get really spiritual, the 'Spirit of Understanding' is actually one of the 7 spirits referred to in Revelation, an attribute of the Holy Spirit held by Jesus. We need to apply ourselves to understanding (Proverbs 2:2).
But we are made up of more than just a spirit.
We are also:
Soul: Mind Will and Emotions
Spirit: Animating force within us, or Gods spirit within us.
Bio psychosocial - this is the technical way that we should look at Mental Illness. The bio psychosocial model of medicine is a way of looking at the mind and body of a patient as two important systems that are interlinked. It is a Holistic approach. Holistic just means that we are concerned with completeness, wholeness.
If you are suffering from depression or anxiety you long for peace. Do I believe that you can be healed from Depression? Absolutely, however, I also believe in a holistic and wise approach. I totally believe in the integrity and excellence of Doctors, Psychologists and Psychiatrists. I also believe that Depression like any other illness needs competent care.
Amy Simpson says it better than I can.
“As followers of Christ and as his representatives, we are called to follow his example. We are called to reach out to suffering people, to stick with them rather than shrink away. We are called to believe that no one is ever beyond hope, past the point where God’s grace and love apply to them.
God does not give up on people, even if they give up on themselves. After all, we are not called to have all the answers, understand all life’s mysteries, or fix everyone’s problems. But we are called to love.” Amy Simpson author of Troubled Minds.
The raw statistics on mental health are staggering and appalling for a country that, by many measures, is the wealthiest and most fortunate on earth.
■One in five Australians aged 16-85 experiences a mental illness in any year, and half of us will have a mental illness in our lifetime.
More than a quarter of young people aged 16 - 24 have a mental disorder
■Depression is the No. 1 cause of non-fatal disability in Australia.
Experts say that 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder.
Depression - What is it?
It’s more than just a low mood it’s a serious illness.
Depression is the ‘feeling‘ of hopelessness the feeling of being overwhelmed.
It is the lack of a ‘future positive possibility’ which exhausts you and robs you of your motivation and strength.
1 million Australians live with depression each year.
1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression in their lifetime
Often there are many factors associated with Depression
• Inherited disposition
• Chemical imbalance
• Life Stresses
• Past trauma
• Drugs and alcohol can play a part
What are the Warning signs:
• Getting up later than normal, or not wanting to get out of bed at all. (In fact you could stay in your bed all day)
• Skipping meals
• Finding it hard to concentrate
• Eating unhealthily
• Having disturbed sleep
• Feeling irritable or stressed often
• Cancelling appointments
• Wanting to spend a lot of time alone
• Feeling teary
• Feeling sad or down and losing pleasure in things for more than two weeks
What happens in the brain? What is chemical imbalance?
Evidence suggests that depression may be related to change in the levels or activity of certain chemicals that carry messages within the brain - particularly serotonin, nor-epinephrine and dopamine which are the three main chemicals related to mood and motivation. Changes to stress hormones have also been found in people with depression.
Can people just snap out of it? No they can't just snap out of it, or watch a funny movie or force themselves to feel better. No more than someone can snap out of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Chicken Pox. In fact saying this to someone can actually make them feel more helpless.
Depression is treatable and manageable.
Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists can advise on treatments.
Because both anxiety and depression is thought to be associated with personality, thought processes and chemical imbalance, treatment and recovery require both medication and specific therapies. It involves a bio psychosocial approach:
• Social supports
o Including help from family and community, prayer and meditation.
"There is no one proven way that people recover from depression. However, there is a range of effective treatments and health professionals who can help people on the road to recovery"(Beyond Blue).
Medical Treatment: anti-depressants
Anti depressants can be an important part of recovery. Sometimes though it takes some time to work out the right type of anti-depressant and the right dosage. I was very lucky. Within about three weeks I felt radically different. In fact I remember saying in complete wonder, "Is this how normal people feel"?
Psychological treatment: “Talking Therapy” and "Cognitive Behavioral therapy" can help people change negative thought patterns and feelings and find ways to stay well. I would include prayer and meditation in this along with reading the bible and praise. The bible encouraged us to be 'transformed by the renewing of our minds' (Rom 12:2). We can do this by reading scripture and words of promise over our lives. The living word of God has the power to transform minds.
"You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you". James Allen
Self-Care is extremely important: Sleep, exercise, regular meals, enjoyable activities are really important. Often we can be very hard on ourselves and there are times when we all have problems that seem too big to sort out. If you are feeling like this, one of the best things you can do is talk to someone. An adult a friend a family member or a professional.
Who can help?:
Deciding who you want to talk to is the first step.
A GP is a really good place to start, they will start you on the path that you need to take for wellness.
See a counsellor or a spiritual advisor to help sort through how you are feeling.
Depression, anxiety and related disorders are treatable conditions from which most people recover.
How can you help someone with depression?
Listen more than talk
Remember it is a medical condition that requires medical treatment.
E.G: you cannot stop someone’s leg from bleeding by talking to them
Use open-ended questions
Spend time together
Learn about depression and anxiety
Take time out to look after yourself too
Talk to someone
There are organisations for carers - it really helps to link into community support programs
• If you are fighting depression you are not alone.
Depression seems to have been the bane of many of life’s great leaders. In the Bible, Moses, Elijah, David, and Job had to deal with it. Sir Winston Churchill called depression his ‘black dog’ and Ernest Hemingway referred to it as ‘the artist’s reward’.
• President Abraham Lincoln battled depression and suicide all his adult life. There were times when for his own safety he would not allow himself carry a knife. Read about Lincoln turning to the Bible to relieve his depression.
Finally some thoughts to ponder on which may help:
"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken" (Psalm 34:17-20).
"The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple (Jonah 2:5-7).
All notes taken from Beyond Blue literature, Melinda Tankard Reist, and notes by Geoff Kennett
Troubled Minds- Mental Illness and the Churches Mission by Amy Simpson
Switch on your Brain by Dr Caroline Leaf.
"According to researchers, the vast majority--a whopping 75-98 percent--of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life. What we think about truly affects us both physically and emotionally. In fact, fear alone triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses in our bodies, activating more than thirty different hormones! Today our culture is undergoing an epidemic of toxic thoughts that, left unchecked, create ideal conditions for illnesses.
Supported by current scientific and medical research, Dr. Caroline Leaf gives readers a prescription for better health and wholeness through correct thinking patterns, declaring that we are not victims of our biology. She shares with readers the "switch" in our brains that enables us to live happier, healthier, more enjoyable lives where we achieve our goals, maintain our weight, and even become more intelligent. She shows us how to choose life, get our minds under control, and reap the benefits of a detoxed thought life" (Amazon).
If you can suggest any books or resources that have helped you with Depression please let me know. Lisa.
Photography Credit: Matt Lawson