A couple of weeks ago Bernadette and I visited with a group of people who wanted to learn more about the effects depression can have on those who live with and care for a depressed person. These kind, caring folks had a genuine concern for helping families struggling through the difficult times of life, and had great questions about exactly what depression is, what it looks like, and what it does to people.
One question asked, though, continues to haunt me. One woman noted that 50 years ago, people had a closer connection to their faith through prayer and their churches; back then, she said, we didn’t hear constantly about depression, other mental disorders, and the need for therapists and medication. She postulated that if only people still had such a connection to faith, depression wouldn’t be so rampant in our society today.
I felt compelled to remind the group that though depression didn’t seem prevalent 50 years ago, the fact is that this debilitating illness was out there all the time – people just didn’t talk about such a supposedly shameful and embarrassing “weakness.” Then, too, I wanted to be clear that, as important as faith can be in recovery, a strong connection to faith and church is not a talisman against depression. The illness strikes where it will, due to brain chemical issues and other factors, even when we have a relationship with a higher power.
It’s misconceptions like these that make it difficult to overcome the lasting stigma surrounding depression. The implication is that we have the power to avoid or overcome the illness if only we are “strong” enough or “faithful” enough. Those of us who live with and care for depressed people can be the voice that refutes this kind of archaic thinking, for the good of all.