David Chaplow, head of Mental Health New Zealand, worships with Wellington Central Baptist. He has confidence in the transformative power of the gospel. David identifies four things as basic human needs, and where personal faith and participation in the life of the church meet all of those needs.
– Rodney Macann, National Leader
Each year, one in five of us will experience symptoms of mental illness. This includes the wide scope of those with grief and trauma, anxiety and depression, and those who use and abuse drugs and alcohol.
This has been repeatedly shown in epidemiological research. The conceptual problem is that these symptom-presentations map to the dimensions of normal life with all of its stress and challenges.
Depression refers to a lowered mood. It occupies a point on a spectrum from understandable misery (usually stemming from loss of loved ones, status, possession, and prestige), to mild but persistent depression and unhappiness, to a persistent and serious mood disorder associated with physiological disruption (sleep, appetite, weight loss etc.), a negative view of the world, self and future, and sometimes psychosis with delusions.
Mild depression is ubiquitous but still potentially serious. It is associated with lowered self esteem and confidence, poor productivity, low energy and pessimism. It is also linked with suicide.
The World Health Organisation anticipate that by 2020 depression will be the major world health scourge that will adversely affect a nation’s productivity. WHO’s intention is to encourage governments to develop preventative strategies.
Suicide is the ultimate in self-directed harm. Depression plays an important part. Estimates vary but depression is a causative factor in perhaps 60-70% of suicide attempts.
The scale of the problem and loss to New Zealand and the respective families is enormous. About 500 people every year take their lives. Although this has reduced by 20% over the past decade it remains an appalling toll. WHO reports that, worldwide, about one million people die by suicide each year.
How do we deal with depression and develop resilience in dealing with life-stress? Mild depression responds well to sharing concerns and problems with a friend, mentor, elder or pastor. It is also useful to consider lifestyle (diet, exercise, stress and conflict). Often our thinking and expectations, of ourselves and others, differ from others’ perceptions. It is useful to have another perspective.
More serious depression involves persistently low mood, appetite loss, sleep disturbance, loss of the ability to concentrate and odd moods (such as crying for no good reason) as well as poor work or study performance. Counselling support is necessary but medication is also an important adjunct. Those suffering need to see or be referred to a doctor.
Those who have experienced depression attest that it is unpleasant and frightening and often ask: “How can I prevent it happening again?”
Every one of us, to be psychologically healthy, needs:
- to belong
- to be able to love and be loved
- to be relevant
- to have a transcendental understanding of events that affect our life.
If any one or more of these resiliency factors are lacking in the life, vulnerability exists. Vulnerability is an individual matter that concerns our biological and psychological make-up and how we have learned to cope from watching our parents. It relates to personality style, and our belief and value systems. These deeper issues need exploration outside of the immediate concern of depression.
If you are feeling depressed and miserable and can’t shake it off, talk to someone and seek help. It is not a sign of failure or spiritual weakness. It is usually nature’s “warning sign” that something needs to change. It happens to most of us.