While more than 21 million Americans suffered from clinical depression last year, discussion of the topic is still surrounded by awkwardness and stereotypes.
Thursday, Leslie Miles, an assistant teaching professor in the college of nursing and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and Marleen Williams, a clinical professor of counseling psychology, hoped to shed light on the topic by explaining what depression is and how to manage it.
“Depression is a topic that we often speak in whispers,” Miles said. “Today, we’ll lift the shroud surrounding depression.”
Depression comes in two forms: exogenous depression resulting from outside forces such as a death of a loved one and medical endogenous depression resulting from biological changes in brain chemicals. It also tends to be a woman’s disease, affecting 1 in 4 women regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.
Miles reminded listeners some bouts of depression are to be expected in life.
“Life is not perfect like the media likes to make us believe,” she said.
Instead, individuals should remember someone will always be better off and worse off than them. Miles said her mother alway told her she was fine as long as she was in the middle.
“I’m the one that decides where I sit in all that,” Miles said. “It’s a matter of your perspective.”
However, for some, simple reflection will not remove feelings of depression that can last for weeks before passing.
Oftentimes, depression is not talked about because people feel they will be judged or talked about, Miles said. It’s important to remember clinical depression is a real disease with real effects on a person’s life.
“It isn’t just in your head,” Miles said. “Yes, your brain is in your head, but that’s not what I mean.”
Patients suffering from depression may find relief in counseling and proper medication. However, Miles warned medication takes time, 2 to 4 weeks, before having an effect and often needs to be taken for the remainder of one’s life.
“That’s a long time to be patient and wait for it to work,” she said. “People don’t discuss that they’re depressed, but … they’re fighting a great battle.”
Miles encouraged such people to gain access to the master therapist — Jesus Christ.
She rejected the assumption of depression or suffering being the result of one’s sin.
“This mortal affliction is not the result of anyone’s sin,” Williams said. “We must be very very careful to not associate a meaning with those that suffer from depression.”
Because depression is such a pervasive affliction, Williams said it will most likely impact a loved one at some point in one’s life. As such, individuals need to know how to respond to such issues.
Friends and family should avoid comments that lessen the serious nature of their loved ones’ affliction by claiming they should simply count their blessing, or stop wallowing.
“Such comments deny the biological component of depression,” she said. “The depressed person cannot simply will themselves out of a depression.”
Often, such comments can backfire, resulting in the patient feeling depressed about being depressed.
“Rather than imposing answers, it’s better just to provide comfort,” Williams said.
Helpful comments include reminding the depressed friend that it takes courage to admit to such an affliction and that they are not alone or broken.
“Sometimes all we can really do is be a compassionate witness to their suffering,” Williams said. “We may not be able to take someone’s pain away, but we can stand as a witness of Christ’s love by being an angel.”
In the end, Williams reminded listeners of the love of God and offered hope, quoting 2 Corinthians 12:9 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”