The Depression Epidemic

What follows is a slightly revised edition of a blog I posted in September of 2013, four months after my 19 year old son, Jordan, took his life.  nw


As of this week, there were still a few things at my office that had been “undisturbed” since my son took his life on May 13th.

I finally forced myself to go through a small stack of papers a couple of days ago. Inside that stack was an article I’d printed off on April 10th entitled, ‘The Depression Epidemic.’

The author is Dr. Dan Blazer, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. The article was actually first published in 2009, in Christianity Today.

Blazer had some encouraging words to offer those suffering with this sometimes enigmatic malady (Jordan suffered from clinical depression. I was diagnosed a number of years ago.)

Blazer, up front, differentiates “clinical depression/major depressive disorder” from “the everyday blues/situational depression.” The latter is triggered by a situation common to everyone i.e. a break-up, job loss, etc., and will abate within a few days.  The former, however, is due to a chemical imbalance within the brain and must be treated with medication.

If you, or someone you know, deals with what you may consider clinical depression, please get help.

Here are a few excerpts from CT’s interview with Dr. Blazer:

“As familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of severe depression remain a mystery.”

We may grasp in part the distress of King David: “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10). But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12).

Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways…..Deep depression is embodied emotional suffering. It is not simply a state of mind or a negative view of life but something that affects our physical being as well….

However we choose to define depression, both its frequency and its disruption of normal life are staggering.

The World Health Organization named depression the second most common cause of disability worldwide after cardiovascular disease, and it is expected to become number one in the next ten years…

We also know that distorted thoughts contribute to depression. Those who are depressed do not evaluate themselves accurately (i.e., I am not as good as others). They fear that their selves are disintegrating (i.e., I am falling apart). They depreciate their value to others (i.e., I am of very little benefit to my family). And they believe they do not have control over their bodies (i.e., I just cannot make myself eat)….

Finally, no symptom is more central to depression than the loss of hope.

When used wisely, antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy can restore stability to individuals so that they can better negotiate everyday challenges….[But, in addition, to medicine], Those who bear the marks of despair on their bodies need a community that bears the world’s only sure Hope in its Body.

They need communities that rehearse this Hope again and again and delight in their shared foretaste of God’s promised world to come. They need to see that this great promise, secured by Christ’s resurrection, compels us to work amidst the wreckage in hope.

Should a Christian ever struggle with depression?  (I address that question in more detail here.)

Apparently, the children of God have wrestled with depression for millennia.  The psalmist wrote, “Darkness is my closest friend.”

So, yes, struggling with depression makes us no different from biblical heroes of the faith.

As state above, if you are suffering from depression please notify someone and get help immediately.  I have good news for you:  there is hope and help in abundance.