Why Christians Are Hesitant To Talk About Depression

Why Christians Are Hesitant To Talk About Depression

Many Christians struggle with depression, yet receive little sympathy from their fellow believers. 

They are viewed with a certain amount of suspicion – they must be harboring some secret sin or they’re failing to exercise faith.  Otherwise, they’d be healed.  When you feel like you are being judged, you won’t be likely to talk about your depression.

Often Christians feel uncomfortable talking about being depressed, or seeking help because there’s so much confusion about depression:

The vast majority of people know very little about the role of the brain in our thinking and feeling processes. I’m afraid that even many Christians and pastors lack vital understanding of brain science, and especially of the role the brain plays in our lives.

Yes, of course, some depressions can be caused by sinful actions, thoughts, and feelings. But depression can also be caused by the “machine” that processes our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings breaking down and malfunctioning. Like the factory with a broken conveyor belt, it doesn’t matter how many high-quality raw materials you put into it, the goods are going to come out damaged until the machinery is fixed. You can press the switch as often as you want, but if the cable is broken you will still remain in the dark.

Another reason Christians are hesitant to talk about depression is hyper-spirituality:

Although Christians with heart disease, diabetes, blood disorders, cancer, etc. do not think that it is unspiritual to seek and use medicines to relieve their symptoms and even cure their illness, many seem to think that there is some spiritual virtue in suffering depression for months and years without any medical intervention.

“Taking medication for depression is a sign of weakness” says the person who’s on a cocktail of drugs for their cholesterol and diabetes.

Furthermore, our culture as Africans doesn’t seem to make the discussion less difficult. Getting help for a mental health condition  is often seen as a sign of weakness, a personal flaw—not a legitimate, clinical condition. In fact, most Africans believe that a mental health condition is a personal sign of weakness. “We’re blacks and we don’t crack.”
 
Sadly, many years ago, when someone very close to me began to struggle with depression, I didn’t understand it.
 
I thought she wasn’t thinking right, wasn’t exercising enough faith. I thought she was caving in by taking medication.  Then I thought that maybe it was somehow my fault, that I was doing something wrong. Or maybe it was a demonic attack. But eventually, I came to see that our outward man is decaying, and that our brain is part of our outward man.  If our bodies can develop diabetes, why couldn’t our brain develop problems? 
 
When someone is depressed they are really suffering. I’ve heard the phrase “the fury of a depression”. Often no one can know what it’s like if they haven’t experienced it. 
 
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with praying for recovery from a mental health condition, but we still have to be proactive. Sometimes those battling with mental health challenges need to be advised to seek professional help and treatment, just as you would in speaking with someone with cancer.

It’s a sad thing if someone in their pain can’t talk with anyone about it.  So the first thing to do might just be to listen.  With sympathy and compassion. 

 

 

 

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