More than 350,000,000 million people in the world are affected by depression. In the U.S., 6.7% of adults experience major depressive disorder. Women are 70% more likely to experience depression than men. The World Health Organization says that is the leading cause of disability in the world. They also report that between 76 and 85% of those in low-income countries who need treatment for their mental heal problems do not receive it. In high-income countries, 35-50% of those who need treatment for mental health problems do not receive it.
The statistics are overwhelming and show that depression and mental health issues are worldwide problems. Yet many who grapple with these issues still struggle with the stigma that comes with mental illness, even in the church.
Mental health and depression have recently come into the spotlight in the church, with leaders like Ed Stetzer and Kay Warren calling for the church to recognize and help individuals in the church who suffer from mental illness. While a high-level awareness of depression and mental illness in the church is good and necessary, many still wonder how to love those close to them who have been diagnosed with mental illness in some way.
While each situation is different and presents its own complications, there are things each of us can do to love those who suffer and walk with them along their journey.
There are plenty of resources online that discuss the issue of depression and mental illness. The World Health Organization and the National Institute of Mental Health both offer in-depth looks at roots and causes, statistics, and ways to get help. Also, talk to the doctor of your loved one. This is not to get personal information, but to learn how you can better help those in your life impacted by depression. The doctor can also explain medications, possible side effects of that medication, and provide next steps for treatment.
Those struggling with depression often feel like they are alone and have no way out. Be available to them. Let them honestly express what they’re feeling and where they are. Don’t immediately try to fix them, but give them time to verbally process where they are. Sometimes, just talking about feelings and the depression can help clear away some of the sadness and darkness and offer hope. However, you feel that someone is suicidal or is a harm to themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Prayer isn’t something that replaces medication or treatment. However, as Christians, we are called to intercede for each other before the Lord. And we’re called to bear one another’s burdens. Pray for friends and family as they seek treatment or enter counseling. Engage with them honestly and truthfully in the Word. Encourage them. Ask the Lord for wisdom as you listen and support those in your life who suffer.
Depression and mental illness are very real issues that impact millions worldwide. We owe it to our families and friends to recognize this and educate ourselves accordingly. The church needs to actively be a part of removing the stigma of mental illness. We must be a place where those who struggle can find love, hope, and help.