Attitudes toward Depression

Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to depression, along with a great deal of ignorance and misunderstanding. Some people think that depression is a sign of weakness and that strong people never get depressed. This is simply not true.

Winston Churchill was one of the great political and military leaders of the twentieth century. He led the allied forces in World War II to victory over Hitler. Yet he suffered regularly with depression. In fact, he labeled his depression, ‘the black dog.’ There were many days in his life when the black dog was in the room. There were other days when it was gone. Churchill was not a weak person yet he suffered from depression.

Martin Luther, the influential leader of the Protestant Reformation, had regular battles with depression. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time, also had regular battles with depression. In his book, Lectures to My Students, he has a whole chapter called “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” where he talks about battling with various emotions such as depression. Depression is not a sign of weakness.

Some religious people think that depression is a result of sin (e.g. God’s punishment or withdrawal from you) or that depression in itself is a sin. People who believe this would say that a depressed person needs to repent, snap out of it, and get a good attitude. Yes, there may be times when depression is a consequence of decisions that a person has made, but most often that is not the reason why someone suffers from depression.

Some people think that if you are depressed it means that you have no faith. People make comments such as, “If you had more faith, then you would live on the mountain tops all the time. You would be victorious and you would never feel down.” Have you ever thought that? This is not really true. In fact, I talked to a woman recently who said to me, “You know, when you are working through depression, you do not lack faith. It is your faith that keeps you going. What you lack is hope!” What a powerful statement. Depression is rarely a sign of a lack of faith. People suffering from depression are often hanging tightly onto God. What they need is some hope that they will be able to come out of that valley.

No doubt, these negative attitudes towards depression can really damage people’s lives if we are not careful. In contrast, Christian psychologist Arch Hart believes that depression can be a healing emotion if we co-operate with it. It is part of our body’s warning system, calling attention to something that is wrong. It slows us down so that healing can follow. Depression is the cry of the soul that something is missing.

Tomorrow: Some stories of depression from Bible times.