Depression: Down, But Not Out

Kelli Ann - angel

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at any given time, approximately 3 % of adults have major depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder, a lasting and severe type of depression. In fact, major depression is the leading reason for disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, in keeping with the CDC. Symptoms include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration. Sadly, suicide is the outcome of depression in about 15 % of cases.

Depression is a complicated condition that affects more than simply a person’s emotions; it impairs one’s thinking, perceptions of the world around the victim, and physical functioning. The causes of depression are likewise as complex as the disorder itself. The medical model that characterizes depression as merely a “chemical imbalance within the brain” is conjointly incomplete

Biological science and genetic factors do play a role; however, so do psychological, social, behavioral, cultural, social, moral, and indeed, religious factors. Depression ought to be understood and treated from all of those complementary views. Medications and different biological treatments have a vital therapeutic role in several cases, as does psychotherapy provided by competent, sensitive, and proficient professionals. These ought to be integrated with religious support and religious direction, a lifetime of prayer, and therefore the sacraments.

However, some sufferers of mental disorders frequent the confessional in an endeavor to cure their symptoms. The confessional was never meant to cure neurosis or other mental disturbances; by the same token, the couch was never meant to absolve sin. Pope St. John Paul II states: “The confessional is not, and cannot be, an alternative to the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist’s office, nor can one expect the sacrament of Penance to heal truly pathological conditions. The confessor is not a physician or a healer in the technical sense of the term; in fact, if the condition of the penitent seems to require medical care, the confessor should not deal with the matter himself, but should send the penitent to competent and honest professionals.”

All too typically, I meet those who see their mental disease as a signal of some sort of weakness, or maybe a signal of God’s vexation with them. Instead of beating ourselves up for perennial faults, or for having depression or bipolar illness, maybe it’d be wiser hand over to God those elements of ourselves that are painful and troublesome. Jesus was born to share in our sufferings, forgive our sins and failings, and show us how much the Father loves us even as we are, imperfect and liable to sin, as well as mental disease. The responsibility is ours to simply accept our illness and do our best to seek the suitable treatment. The stakes are too high to resist opportunities for healing — spiritual and physical — that are offered to us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I will now close with the words of Pope St. John Paul II from the International Conference for Health Care Workers on Illnesses of the Human Mind:

“Whoever suffers from mental illness ‘always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. in addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”

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23 thoughts on “Depression: Down, But Not Out”

  1. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION -

  2. Pingback: Listaliciousness: Traffic Cone Interviews, Dogs in a Photobooth, and Realistic Heroines | Rose with Thorns

  3. The greatest factor in causing depression is the absence in our culture of anything resembling respect for the dignity of persons. Women are endlessly exploited and billed by the advertising – fashion – cosmetics complex while men and women both are increasingly enslaved by pornography, and anyone hoping to go through a day without hearing from co-workers nasty sexually-explicit conversations which were unutterable in public even a mere quarter century ago is dreaming. The constant refrain from the same folk about how horrible children are and how rotten everyone else is quite hideous. In addition there is the perpetual cycle of ha tried perpetuated by the 2 – hour news cycle which is as dreadful on the conservative side as it is on the progressive side.

  4. Very well stated. This is why I believe that the “sacrament” of confession be available to anyone.
    It would be a true sign of a universal church; a mystical body that could reach across humanity to
    heal the soul of any penitent ( not suffering from clinical depression ) without getting hung up over dogma. Of course, this sacrament would not allow a non catholic to receive communion. Think of
    the converts who might crowd our churches if they could initially avail themselves of … mercy and

  5. The worst depression I ever experienced was when, at my atheist brother’s recommendation, I took the CD set out at the library and listened to The God Delusion. It all made sense and I followed up with reading the books of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett among others.

    The transition from Catholic to Secular Humanist has been the most personally disruptive and painful experience of my life. I was taught that Hell is the eternal separation from God and I thought I would always make sure I would never create and widen that separation. But when I found out there is no God, it was the same as being separated from him. But there is no way back to something that never existed in the first place.

    1. I’m not depressed now. No flowers yet in Boston. Still have a trace of snow. I can look at a flower and appreciate it as part of Nature.

    2. Dawkins begins ‘The God Delusion’ with a guffaw about Fatima, suggesting that because the miracle there is called ‘ the miracle of the sun’ people believe that the moving disc was really the sun. What he omits from the story is that the clothes and the people, as well as the ground which had been drenched, we’re bone dry following the descent of the blazing light.
      Sadly, as with so many, the ‘Catholic ‘ education you received was sorely lacking in substance, or you would’ve seen through the innumerable non-sequiturs that about in the writings of the group Terry Eagleton collectively refers to as ‘Ditchens’.

    3. The late great priest, Father Benedict Groeschel, once pointed out that, in his long vocation, he had met many atheists and they seemed to share one peculiar trait: that they had all (or the great majority) suffered some injury at the hands of their father in their teen years. It’s an odd thing to consider. This was true for my atheism, and I can now, many years later, understand the connection my father’s actions had with the state of my beliefs. Now I can’t, of course, speak for you, but if this assertion has any basis in fact whatsoever, then how based in pure rationalism is atheism (or, at least, the atheism of many) after all?
      Further, it is interesting to consider the notion of believers as “delusional”, because they are irrational, as Mr Dawkins asserts. G.K. Chesterton, in his wonderful work “Orthodoxy” makes the valid point that being insane does not necessarily entail being irrational. That is to say, a paranoid will have a thoroughly coherent and rational explanation for why he believes that the entire world is out to get him. If anything his very rationality is at the heart of his problem! In other words, being “rational” is no guarantee of anything, particularly of knowing for certain that you yourself are not delusional to some degree.

      So how do we know who has the true claim to being non-deluded? It seems to me that the atheist position is, in fact, the belief that one has the self sufficiency, via following the evidence, to ensure one’s status as being non-deluded. I don’t see how that is guaranteed whatsoever given that it is quite possible to be entirely rational and deluded at the same time.
      And isn’t it also possible that to consign all miraculous claims to the dust bin mandated by an atheist dogma is itself potentially delusional? In my own case, I was suffering terribly because my eldest son had to be hospitalized for a time. While I was standing in my kitchen one day I heard an internal voice and “saw” within my heart a statue which gave me great comfort. Further, I heard this voice urging me to get in my car and drive – to where I had no idea. I followed the voice and it led me to a place where I was told to park the car and get out. I did so and followed a path through a wooded area which eventually led me to a life-sized grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes which I had no idea existed. This is a place which I now visit almost weekly because of the great comfort I experience looking into the eyes of the image of Our Lady, and every time I do I am astonished (truly gobsmacked) by the miracle that allowed me to find this very completely hidden place. In other words, if I were to attempt some explanation for this event in my life outside of the miraculous I would have to be forcing facts into some other mold outside of what is easily and readily understood by me as an intervention of the divine in my life.

    4. “he had met many atheists and they seemed to share one peculiar trait: that they had all (or the great majority) suffered some injury at the hands of their father in their teen years.”

      That is an extremely odd thing to say about atheists. There are many good points in your comment. I’ll respond to some of them later. Thanks.

    5. “if I were to attempt some explanation for this event in my life outside of the miraculous I would have to be forcing facts into some other mold outside of what is easily and readily understood by me as an intervention of the divine in my life.”

      Any natural explanation no matter how unlikely must be considered before concluding a miracle.

    6. Yes well that is actually the Catholic position on the matter. Isn’t it rather a dogma of atheism that no miracle is possible? This is the very creed of atheism, is it not, and from this the entire “God delusion” argument derives?

    7. You are right. The Church supposedly would look for possible natural explanations before accepting a miracle. An atheist would assume that there has to be a natural explanation even if it cannot be determined.

    8. Supposedly? I would guess that the Church has disqualified more claims to miracle than any other institution in history. It treats such cases individually and uses the best available science in order to disprove the phenomena.
      Anyway, the issue is the basis upon which one can claim that nothing supernatural is possible. Atheism asserts this as dogma. The basis for it is supposedly that no evidence exists for the supernatural. But for this sort of dogma it’s clear that no evidence is necessary, because no evidence could ever be sufficient. Dogma is the only basis upon which belief in the supernatural can be universally dismissed as “delusional” without examining every individual case: because the only other way to make such an assertion against the supernatural, and be true to our rationalistic principles, is to examine every case and prove their basis.
      So where is the atheist`s position of rational superiority?. Either they are open to the evidence or they have decided the matter. Atheists have decided the matter, and not just for themselves, but apparently for everyone and to the extent that no evidence would be sufficient to overturn their beliefs!!
      …..and you call me delusional

    9. “Atheism asserts this as dogma. The basis for it is supposedly that no evidence exists for the supernatural.”

      A sincere atheist is pretty sure there is no supernatural anything. But it isn’t “dogma”. And it isn’t a delusion it is just a disbelief where there is no punishment for not believing. What you call a “miracle” I call an unexplainable occurrence. I’m not delusional to believe that the laws of nature are inviolable.

    10. So you would agree with the statement,
      “No supernatural event is possible, therefore all claims to miracle are false”.
      You claim that this is the only truly rational position to take, yet you have no means of justifying the premise upon which your belief is based. “No supernatural event is possible” is taken as dogma – taken on faith – and is unsupportable. You seem to want to walk it back with your own language (“A sincere atheist is pretty sure…”), because you know that a true commitment to such a claim is impossible to assert. Yet you assert it nonetheless because to do otherwise would be disastrous to the belief.
      Whereas, in my own case, at least, the belief I have is based in my trust that scripture and living tradition give us an accurate account of the events of God’s revealing Himself to humanity, and provide a means to approach Him that is pleasing to Him. You may not agree with my beliefs, but I don’t see how you can sincerely claim to have made a more rational approach to the matter. In fact it looks as though the opposite is true.

    11. I live my life based on the premise that the supernatural does not exist. I believe that there are no gods, angels, demons, ghosts, souls, afterlife, etc. It is just how I choose to live my life. I don’t have any fear of being wrong because I have not bought into the notion of a reward for believing and a punishment for not.

    12. Yes, I understand that. But you began by commenting that “it all made sense” (i.e. the “God Delusion” and the rest), and I am simply following up on that statement. When things make sense it seems as though they ought to be explainable, but we are left with no explanation for how a belief system claims a superior rationality and yet cannot give a coherent expression of this “sense” making. It seems to follow then, that the appeal of the dogma lies not in its rationality after all, but in some psychological relief it brings, which takes me back to the speculation of Fr Groeschel I referenced above. Odd as it sounds, I believe that there is something to his notion that there is a childhood injury behind many cases of militant atheism, and, sadly, nothing rational whatsoever.

    13. OK. You have a point. In reading the books by the New Atheists, the first thing that I realized was that there is no authority that can tell me what I can and can’t do. While there are civil laws that are relatively easy to obey, there is no “Heavenly Father”, despotic, benevolent or otherwise. So, yes, one of the initial appeals of atheism is getting rid of the eye in the sky.

    14. Well that’s truly fascinating…Interesting the tone of anger throughout – you and Dawkins, et al – how God is portrayed: The Angry Judge, or even the universe’s A-hole cop. The polar opposite to my experience of Him.
      I wish you well, and enjoyed our frank discussion…I’ll do something meaningless for you and pray…though I suspect that somewhere in your heart it does still matter…a little 🙂

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