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How do we help those who suffer with depression and anxiety?  And with suicidal thoughts?

I am dealing with this issue with a teenage daughter and a co-worker.  I have had depression myself in the past and sometimes it tries to creep in on me and I get down. 

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I don't suffer from depression but do have social anxiety. Anyone on here that's known me for years will say yea, Right Tammy. You? Social Anxiety? But it's true. I handle it by always trying to crack that joke. I read this article & thought I'd share some of what it said w/you. It's quite long. 

1. Depression isn’t what the Church sometimes makes it out to be.

It’s not a character defect, a spiritual disorder or an emotional dysfunction. And chief of all, it’s not a choice. Asking someone to “try” not being depressed is tantamount to asking someone who’s been shot to try and stop bleeding. Such an attitude can dangerously appear in the Church as, “if only you had enough faith.”

Cue the record scratch for any Christian regarding matters of healing. Having faith in God’s ability to heal is hugely important, and personal faith can help ease depression. But to deny medical or psychiatric treatment to someone suffering from mental illness is really no different than denying them to someone with a physical illness. The difference between the two is that the former is invisible.

Speaking of the invisible, some faith traditions are quick to suggest demonic attack as the cause for depression. While I’m convinced that there’s definitely a spiritual element—the enemy will exploit any weakness—medical science holds that major depressive disorder is real and the causes are manifold.

2. Mental illness is not a sin.

Yes, sins in the past like physical abuse, substance abuse and neglect may contribute to depression, and these sins often continue as coping mechanisms to those suffering from mental illnesses. Yet this doesn’t make the sufferer of depression and anxiety a sinner simply for experiencing the crushing effects of their condition.

What happens when mental illness is treated as an unconfessed, unaddressed sin is alienation. Viewing depression as a sin in and of itself prevents individuals from seeking treatment. It also ignores the fact that many Christians may respond to depression in unhealthy ways if the root cause is ignored or misunderstood.

3. The Bible doesn’t provide “easy answers.”

The Word is full of wisdom and encouragement for those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, but it doesn’t come in one-verse doses. “Be anxious for nothing” and “do not worry about your life” can easily be taken out of context, which is problematic. First (and importantly), doing so fails to appropriately handle Scripture, carelessly misconstruing the larger intent of the passages.

Another really scary thing this does is it can convince a person in the worst throes of their illness that they’re not obeying God. Add that to what feels like the inability just to be – every shaky breath hurts and getting out of bed is impossible – and you’ve thrown gasoline onto the fire.

A true examination of depression and anxiety in the Bible shows the existential dread that accompanies the illnesses instead of an easy out, one-and-done antidote. God’s hand isn’t always apparent. As Dan Blazer pointed out in Christianity Today, “most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, ‘I am forgotten by them as though I were dead.’ Severe depression is often beyond description.”

Rather than prescribing a bit of a verse divorced from its context, a better strategy is to look at those instances of mental suffering along with the Church body and to offer comfort in the fact that even the saints struggled.

4. Anxiety and depression don’t look how we often think.

When I’ve opened up to Christian friends about my own depression and anxiety disorders, they’re often surprised. “You seem so happy all the time!” Depressed people become really good at hiding their symptoms, even from doctors, because of the stigma attached to the illness. Churches often don’t address mental illness, which gives the worship team guitarist or the elder even more incentive to keep it hidden away. Furthermore, the symptoms of depression often tend to contradict each other, which makes it really difficult for a person suffering from depression to recognize it for what it is—let alone for the Church to recognize it.

“Learning to recognize the signs” then is often a failing strategy. If churches begin responding to mental disorders as a community willing to offer encouragement and support, people suffering from those illnesses may just be able to accept the help. It may just be people you never expected.

5. Strong churches don’t “fix” depression.

Given all of the above, it’s easy to understand how the stigma related to depression, even in the Church, will prevent people from seeking Christian guidance and support. The most Christ-loving and helpful community might not have the appropriate framework for dealing with such clinical disorders, and many churches don’t have licensed psychologists on the staff. Pastoral staff can be ill-equipped to deal with depression and err toward a spiritual solution rather than psychological or medical treatment.

Even churches that seek to provide a safe haven for those suffering in their midst might not have a judgment-free place to discuss their struggles. Programs like Celebrate Recovery can provide an invaluable forum for people to interact with others who experience “hurts, habits, and hangups,” and can help deal with some of the self-medication many people with depression and anxiety use to numb themselves. Without a carefully planned strategy to deal with mental illness, though, “all are welcome” might not be enough. Healing comes from a prayerful, loving community that seeks to truly understand major depressive disorder and related conditions, and one that develops a positive response.

Most churches probably have the very best intentions when dealing with issues of mental illness. Like the rest of society, however, the Church may misinterpret these clinical conditions and respond to them in ways that exacerbate them—and as a result, demoralize those suffering. Christ, the Great Physician, came to heal the sick. As His body, it’s time the Church leads society in helping to do the same. 

Brandon William Peach

This article didn't necessarily tell how to deal w/it as much as it told you what it isn't & how we as Christians should look at it. Hope it helps somewhat.

I really don't believe we have as much faith as we would like to think. When I look at the decuples Coming to Jesus when they couldn't cast the demon out of that boy, they asked Jesus why they couldn't and He said because of your unbelief. How much unbelief does it take to stop a deliverance? James 1 says with a wavering faith let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. So we have enough faith, we just have too much unbelief. So we, me as well, waver in our faith more than we think. We try to say the right things to see if it will happen... and when it doesn't we think God didn't hear our prayer. sometimes we will pray out of desperation and need an answer the next moment, but Ro.8:26 says we don't know what we should pray for as we aught, but the spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and he that searches the heart knoweth the mind of the spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God... lot of questions on that one for a lot of people.

So faith according to the Strong's Concordance says that faith is a conviction or a persuasion of the heart. most of the time we are not sure in our heart that God will heal, deliver answer our prayers etc. "Wavering faith" James 1

I've seen times when I got an answer immediately, and other time as here lately, still looking, yet knowing a little anxiety on my part. Will God find faith on earth when He comes.  Luke 18:8 (KJV)
8  I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?  

Blessings JB

Hi Michelle,

I've noticed a cycle for myself in the past that a few things bring on anxiety.  God healed me from it many years ago, but I would say it's something that still tries to creep in.  Personally, I believe it could be a number of causes, in come cases it could be a chemical imbalance.  We have to find out what the source of it is.  If it's a chemical imbalace then there are medications which may be helpful.  BUT if it's not a chemical imbalance than those medications could be dangerous.  The 'world'  will want us to seek out wordly solutions.  We have to get to the source of why the anxiety/depression is happening, and a counsellor may help with that.  First and foremost I would suggest that you find out if it's a chemical imbalance.

If it's not a chemical imbalance, than it could be physical circumstances, emotional exhaustion, spiritual reasons.... 

For myself,  I discovered that I was trying to control situations I could not control, and I suffered a certain PTSD from my past that I hadn't dealt with.

These days, depression and suicidal thoughts are on the rise due to the pandemic.  

We know that God intends for us to live joyful abundant lives.  I think we're inclined to write our own stories and determine ourselves what that is supposed to look like though.  We tend to want it to mean that nothing bad ever happens, and that all of our wishes will come true.  We can see in our lives that bad things do actually happen all the time, and more often than not, all our 'wishes' do not come true.  As a matter of fact, sometimes we find ourselves in exactly the opposite circumstance of what we pictured or imagined for our lives.  We then experience a disconnect.  We feel that maybe God either doesn't care enough to intervene in our lives, or even worse that He's not listening, and therefore doesn't love us.  Some may even doubt to the point of unbelief.  We may find ourselves in a position of being anxious, or depressed.  Sadly, some people even believe there is no reason to go on living.

So what is God's prescription for a Joyful abundant life?  As you read the scriptures, what do you see are His promises?

For now I just want to give you some scriptures to read over, but I'd love to hear back from you, and what you heard from God after you have read them.  

Phillipians 4:4

Romans chapter 8 (yes, the entire chapter)

Isaiah 41:10

1 Corinthians 10:13

Ephesians 6:10-17

I am really looking forward to speaking with you about this.  Please know you are not alone in this.

Blessings, Carla

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