There is Help for the Depressed

by David Elseroad
September 11, 2014

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The man in our counseling suite described a life that would be the envy of many: happily married, with wonderful children and grandchildren, a beautiful home (mortgage paid!), and an early retirement with a generous pension and plenty of time for his favorite pastimes. Yet there he sat glum and downcast. He’d had to drag himself to the session. He didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. He had little interest in the activities he used to enjoy, golf and fishing, even playing with his grandkids. He was depressed, and had been so for months.

Depression has been in the news a lot this year. The tragic death of Robin Williams, and those of other celebrities before him—Philip Seymour Hoffman, Whitney Houston, Kurt Cobain—has stunned us and unmasked depression as a stealth killer. We can all feel “down in the dumps” at times, down on life and down on ourselves. Once a bad day or week is past, our mood usually brightens. But depression lingers and tightens its grip. Depressed persons feel sad, anxious, dissatisfied, worthless and often guilt-ridden. They are invaded by pervasive feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Inertia sets in. They are “stuck,” unable to pull themselves out of this abyss.

A debilitating illness, clinical depression has been linked to biochemical imbalances in the brain and is often triggered by life events. It is not uncommon. One in four women and one in ten men will suffer depression at some point in their lives. It is a serious condition, yet often remains—as for my client above, hidden, undetected and untreated over long periods of time. Upwards of 15% of those with untreated severe depression will eventually kill themselves. The impact on families, friends—and fans—is understandably devastating.

Depression has been called an interpersonal minefield. We don’t know what to say to the depressed person, or fear we’ll do more harm than good. And the depressed person often withdraws, fearing being judged or abandoned. But emotional support offered to someone who is depressed is an essential element in seeking diagnosis and healing. October is National Depression Screening Month. Our LCC counselors are trained to administer a short, simple questionnaire to identify signs of depression. Treatment can then follow, involving psychotherapy and in some cases, medication as well. Ask family members or friends—or you yourself—about seeking professional help and encourage them to do so. Offer to make the appointment for them and drive them to it. This can be the entry to new beginnings and enriched understanding. “All suffering,” observed Martin Buber, “prepares the soul for vision.”

Indeed, spiritual help can be decisive in healing depression. Knowing the God who loves us and cares for us—who gave Himself for us in Jesus Christ—brings hope and courage to pursue treatment and live life with redemptive promise. The Psalmist could acknowledge his despair, yet also the source of renewed hope and confidence: “Why so downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:3). LCC counselors stand ready to walk with, listen and encourage depressed individuals in this journey of hope and healing.

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Rev. Dr. David Elseroad, LFMT, counsels couples, teens, adults and families at three LCC sites: Manhattan (Interchurch Center), Bronxville and Mineola. He is also pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Hawthorne, NY.

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