Depression and the divine dimension
The first positive break-through came about, I suggest, due to the emergence of a more open and honest society, and that encouraged an increasing willingness on people’s part to admit that this condition does actually exist in the community. Once this had happened, individuals were prepared to come out publicly, and to admit that they were suffering from this affliction or that they had done so in the past. The unnecessary stigma was starting to fade.
A second encouraging development has been the growing commitment by both individuals and organisations in our community to dedicate themselves to do one of two things: to provide facilities for its diagnosis and treatment, or to educate the public about this particular illness.
The term ‘depression’ of course can encompass a vast range of possible applications, so, before discussing it, we ought come up with at least some working definition as to how it affects peoples’ lives. At one extreme, ‘depression’ could apply to a person who is simply ‘down in the dumps.’ At the other extreme, however, a person may be seriously ill with some clinical form of depression in which he or she finds it difficult to face the day. Severe ramifications such as suicidal ideation and action can ensue from this latter form.
It is beyond the scope of these remarks to go into more specific details analysing the various ways in which this illness might express itself in the everyday life of an individual. My main concern here is to share a thought or two about an aspect of possible treatment that appears to be given no attention, at least in the media, to the coverage of this malady.
While I welcome the advent of Mr Jeff Kennett’s ‘Beyond Blue’ and other such initiatives that have developed community awareness of the surprisingly high incidence of depression and of the effective treatments available for its sufferers, it seems to me that what I might term ‘the divine dimension’ is either not explored or is seen as irrelevant. While I do believe that every aspect of treatment must be given due consideration – medical, psychological etc., surely the assistance of the spiritual ought be given adequate attention as well.
If we view each human being in a holistic way, as we should, then any satisfactory course of treatment cannot afford to overlook any aspect whatsoever of care that might be relevant to the healing process. So, we need to take account of the person’s relationship with God.
This relationship can express itself particularly in things like meditation, which has already been highlighted in thorough, and has been proven to assist the cure of those crippled with substance abuse. So why on earth would we exclude its possible therapeutic value from those struggling with the detrimental manifestations of depressive illness?!!
Those who have effectively embraced the successful use of the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous would happily endorse the use of the approach summed up by these two steps:
“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity;
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.”
If that power which Christians see as divine can help heal those held bound by an addiction, we should realistically explore its possible benefits for those who struggle so sadly under the disabling influence of depression.
What I’m suggesting here is in no way meant to undermine or ignore the importance or the value of soundly prescribed medication, nor to exclude the competently diagnosed depressive illness and its allied treatment, nor to discount the real value of professional counseling as well. Rather, I am suggesting adjuvant therapy: an opening by the sufferer to the available, loving help of our caring heavenly Father.
Entrusting oneself to His individual and His unconditional love might serve to underline one’s intrinsic worth and dignity, and might also help the person involved to climb out of the depressive trough and attain the heights of wholeness and happiness which are his or her right.