As a counselling agency in the Lower Mainland we are seeing a marked increase in the numbers of people seeking professional help for depression. This supports Health Canada’s report that depression continues to be Canada’s fastest-rising diagnosis. The impact on sufferers and their family and friends is enormous, as are the societal and economic costs.
Depression more than sadness
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines clinical depression as a depressed mood that lasts for several weeks and that interferes with work and social life. It is normal to experience feelings of sadness when someone close to you dies or you fail to achieve an important goal. These feelings are part of life and your grief shows you are human. However, depression is different from healthy sadness in many ways:
- Depression involves a loss of self-esteem
- Depression goes on and on
- People who are depressed may not function productively
- Depression is often accompanied by distorted or negative thoughts
- Depression is an illness
- Depression feels hopeless even though the prognosis is excellent
Causes of depression are numerous, varied and often complex, ranging from physiological to circumstantial. Conflict in relationships can often lead to feelings of depression, as does stress – stress from parenting, financial obligations, from work situations, from working with and caring for aging parents. There is also a strong entwined relationship between substance use and depression often due to an effort to cope with the feelings of sadness.
It is also true that many people live with their stress in isolation, with little or no supportive network that would provide comfort and reassurance.
Depression and Christianity
For the Christian, however, depression brings an added set of problems since depression, by its nature, involves the loss of joy. Add this to the scriptural challenge to be involved in kingdom life, something that at times is beyond the ability and energy of one living with depression, and it is not difficult to see how guilt can then become a significant additional issue for Christians suffering from this disease.
Where to turn for help?
- Start with a visit and discussion of your symptoms with your family doctor.
- There may be organic causes such as anemea or sleep depravation.
- Make an appointment with your Pastor.
- The appointment is important to discuss in a relaxed setting. A quick prayer after the service is not sufficient. Spiritual discernment needs quiet and full attention.
- Consider the more specialized “pastoral” help of a recognized professional counsellor.
- If you are a student, ask your campus health centre for a referral to a counsellor)
- Check with your company’s employee assistance plan. Many offer referrals to counselling, and some plans will help you pay for private therapy
- If you have self destructive thoughts or urges call a local crisis line.
According to Health Canada statistics, more than 80% of people who receive adequate treatment for depression experience full relief from their symptoms, or at the very least will improve substantially. Hope and happiness can be be restored!
Jo Ferguson is the Executive Director of Burnaby Counselling Group
Information sources: Health Canada website; The Feeling Good Handbook, David D Burns, MD; Depression In Your Church, Keith Condie, Dean of Students at Moore Theological College