Depression afflicts many people. In fact, some of the latest numbers show that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from a regular sense of feeling depressed. For some it might be more severe, for others it can just be a lingering sense of melancholy or a general sense of feeling down. The severity can vary as much as the experience of it.
What depression is like?
A person who is depressed does not always feel sad. They can feel exhausted or lose interest and motivation toward things they normally enjoy. Some people with depression can push through and engage in regular activities, while others shut down. Some people with depression cry often, while others not at all. Sometimes it can bring the experience a lot of feelings, making life emotionally exhausting, and other times it is the experience of being emotionally numb or flat. Sometimes suicidal thoughts can accompany depression and other times a person who is depressed will never have suicidal thoughts.
Depression is suffering. It is deep pain that somebody lives with day-to-day. And sometimes, it’s even debilitating. It is complex and doesn’t go away overnight, and some people will live with it their entire life.
What is clinical depression?
You might’ve heard the term clinical depression and wondered what that mean1. If somebody is clinically depressed, they’ve been diagnosed by a doctor, probably a psychiatrist or maybe a general practitioner. What this means is that they’ve met enough of the markers for this diagnosis which will include things like:
- Having a depressed mood most of the day or nearly every day.
- Having a diminished interest in almost all activities most of the day or nearly every day.
- It also can include physical symptoms like significant weight loss or weight gain which can corresponds to a loss of appetite or disinterest in eating, or maybe increased eating for emotional relief.
- It can also include things like a noticeable loss of energy or sense of feeling easily fatigued.
- Other markers are a diminished ability to think and concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Sometimes recurrent thoughts of death without a specific plan or intent to commit suicide can also be present.
- Having to spend at least an hour everyday trying to cope is also a sign of clinical depression.
How you can help?
While these descriptions can help you understand depression a little more, you don’t have to know if someone has been clinically diagnosed to help them. You don’t have to be a counselor to be a loving and compassionate friend. I will offer some direction on what can help a Christian who finds themselves dealing with depression. Below are five things you can say that can help. You can use these exact words or make them your own but keep in mind that your tone is often as important as your words.
Five things you can say to help a friend who is struggling.
- God cares about your suffering. Your pain matters. God isn’t looking down hoping you get it together soon. He loves you. He grieves with you. And he cares that you are hurting.
- Your thoughts are never too dark for God. No matter what you are thinking, you can pour out your heart to God. Thoughts of death. Feelings of hopeless. Questions and doubts. God wants to hear them all. He wants to hear your whole heart. The Psalms are great examples of people who poured out their hearts to God during unrelenting suffering.
- Depression does not mean you are a bad Christian. Depression happens for all sorts of reasons. While we all still struggle with sin and temptation, many people who are depressed are spiritually right with God, yet still depressed. Don’t assume your suffering means you are lacking faith or not a good Christian.
- You are not a burden. In fact, you are needed. You are needed in your relationships and you are needed in the body of Christ. We need you. Your perspective on life helps others better understand how to love others who struggle and can help us all become more compassionate friends.
- You are not alone. You may feel like no one understands your experience of pain. You might think you struggle alone, but God is always with you. The Bible says that God is an ever-present help in troubled times. He is present with you. You belong to Christ, and he is with you. You are his and God has placed you in the lives of others. They may not always understand what you are going through, but they are given to you to be with you in this.eli