As Christ-followers, we are often taught that true Christians are always happy, thankful people; that depression is something caused by a lack a faith and not a medical condition. But then, one day someone I love was diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Doctors said that our bodies need to maintain stable levels of serotonin but that some of the receptors in my loved one’s brain were blocked.
So what is depression and what can you do if your loved one suffers from it? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 Americans will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Women face these illnesses twice as often as men, but there are indicators that men are highly under-diagnosed. Stigmas and misinformation often prevents those with depressive illnesses from getting the treatment they need. A few key signs of depression are:
- Daily sadness
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Restless, anxious or irritable behavior
- Trouble concentrating, focusing or remembering
- Constantly being tired or lethargic
- Sleeping or eating too much
- Sleeping or eating too little
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Thoughts of suicide or death
What do you do if someone you are close to and love is dealing with depression? Because depression and feelings of sadness can be “infectious”, it is important to guard against getting depressed yourself by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, praying and staying in God’s Word. Also, remember that we were not meant to do life alone. Lean on family and friends at this time to help with errands, meals, childcare, and other daily tasks. Let them pray with and for you.
How can you help your loved one who is suffering with depression?
- DO pray fervently with and for them.
- DO share meaningful Scripture verses.
- DO help them see the value of getting well.
- DO listen to them.
- DO give credibility to their feelings.
- DO seek out help for all impacted by the depression.
- DO consider researching medication and other treatment alternatives.
- DO encourage them with words of affirmation.
What are some pitfalls to avoid while helping a loved one suffering with depression?
- DO NOT tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they would simply trust God more.
- DO NOT make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on others.
- DO NOT blame or criticize them.
- DO NOT directly state or imply that they need help because they are weak, unintelligent, or in some way “less than”.
- DO NOT expect medication to solve everything.
- DO NOT discount the need for prayer.
- DO NOT let them continue in a pattern of isolation.
- DO NOT blame yourself for the depression suffered by others.
Regardless of what caused the onset of depression, this is a time that you can choose to let this challenge bring you closer together or tear the relationship with your loved one apart. Above all, this is a time that you can help bring healing to a loved one and Glory to our Creator God.