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.”