We often will say during low times "Oh, I'm just a bit depressed", or when sad things happen we may say "That's depressing isn't it". We can use it in every day language without realising what it actually means to be depressed. It is one of the most common mental health difficulties in the UK, so it's important that we understand the real nature of this condition.
Depression is diagnosed when someone has been experiencing a number of symptoms for more than 14 consecutive days. These symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Low mood
- Things that were interests and hobbies have no enjoyment anymore
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, anxiety etc
- Suicidal thoughts
It can be classed as Mild, Moderate or Severe, depending on how much of an impact it has on daily functioning. Those with mild depression may be able to continue in work or carry out most normal daily activities, but may need support every now and then. Moderate and Severe depression may require time off work and more intensive support and treatment methods.
Commonly, anti-depressants and talking therapies are used to help treat depression. Some symptoms, such as low mood and hormonal/emotional changes, are caused by a change in Serotonin and/or Dopamine levels, which anti-depressants can help balance out. Yet there are lots of other factors that can cause depression. Changes at work, feeling isolated, family breakdown, financial difficulties, health issues can all contribute to depression. 1 in 10 women, and their partners, can experience postnatal depression after the birth of a child, so depression can be situational rather than just a chemical imbalance.
Being a Christian and having depression can be really hard. You know that the Bible says that we have a God who loves us and hear us, who wants us to have life to the fullest. During worship and prayer, it may have been that you had encounters with the Holy Spirit and felt His joy and peace. Depression can dull all of that; it can make you question your faith, sap the colour from life and make you feel very alone. It can be hard to trust that there is hope and light, that people really do care for you and you are worthy of care and attention.
We need to meet where people are at with their depression. That might be helping them make positive lifestyle changes to manage their symptoms, or it may just mean sitting and letting them be. Some people may need help with the situation(s) that are impacting on their symptoms, which may require specialist support. Each person is on their own journey, hard as it may be, so find out what they need/want from people. It could just be hanging out with no pressure to do anything or say anything, but be in the company of a friend.
We can always pray and ask God to break through and lift off any darkness. Praying can be difficult when you feel alone and far away from people, so it's important to intercede on their behalf or stand beside them.
MIND have some great information for supporting someone with depression, as well as tips for self-care. It's important to learn more about what depression looks like and talk about your own experiences. No one is ever alone, we just need to put our hands up and say we've been there too.