I live and work with students on a Christian college campus. I thoroughly enjoy my life and love the students. My life is energized and filled with joy and all sorts of interesting conversation. But being on campus also means I see lots of students and others who are depressed. Often, they bravely turn to me for help. I call these students (and others) brave because they seek help despite being embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. They shouldn’t be embarrassed and ashamed. But in some circles, depression and the stigma associated with it, still walk hand in hand. Sometimes, I am the first person they’ve dared to tell. I am honored by their trust and seek to honor them with how I handle their fragile truth. I thought that I’d briefly share what I tell them in case it could prove helpful to you or someone you know.
- You are not alone. I know this darkness is suffocating. Everyone’s pain and suffering is unique. However, you are not a pariah. There are many that suffer. And there’s a whole community of trustworthy people who desire to walk alongside you and bear your burdens. Jesus invites you to come to him and find rest (Matthew 11:28.29).
- Tell trusted others. Some people cannot handle what you have to say. If you have reason to think a person cannot handle what you reveal or that a person will regale you with Christian platitudes and easy answers, don’t tell that person. Tell those you believe you can trust with what you reveal–those who are mature enough to handle what you have to say. If you’re worried that you cannot find anyone to confide in, know it doesn’t always have to be someone close to you. The wise and mature show themselves by their character and behavior.
- Talk to a counselor. Do not be ashamed to talk to a counselor. There are churches that offer counseling services and counselors with sliding fee scales. If you’re at school or university, go to the counseling department.
- It’s okay to take medicine if needed. Some Christians believe it is wrong to take medication for the mind. I don’t agree. While I don’t believe it should be handed out willy-nilly, I do believe some people have chemical imbalances. But I also believe that proper nutrition, vitamins and exercise are necessary, too.
- Daily Activities. For some it takes the power of God to get out of bed. I understand. Do all you can to get out of bed and to stay on your daily schedule. Even though you feel horrible, like you want to cry all of the time, like the darkness is crushing you, like sleep is your only escape, staying in bed will only exacerbate your problems. Homework and other responsibilities will pile on top of each other. If you stay in bed, you’ll feel even more discouraged. Continue to go to church and out with friends even if you don’t feel like it.
- Get Outside. Do all you can to get fresh air. Even walking outside while all bundled up on a freezing day is helpful.
- Exercise. This is difficult for people even when they’re not depressed! Try to get your endorphins going even if it is just walking about outside. You might have to enlist the help of a friend.
- Prayer. Maybe you cannot pray. But others can seek God on your behalf by praying fervently for you. Ask those you know take prayer seriously to pray for you.
- Renew Your Mind. With depression comes confusion and numbness. Even if you cannot read Scripture or feel as if Scripture is condemning you, try to pick one verse or part of a verse to cling to in order to combat the lies that are afflicting you.
- Serve others. Depression causes us to be self-centered. We must do all we can to be others-referenced and to serve them. Part of our healing will begin as we get our eyes off of ourselves.
- Talk to a doctor. There could be other reasons for your depression, for example hypothyroidism. Talking to a doctor will help you determine underlying causes.
I am not a medical professional; I always encourage students and others who confide in me to speak to a counselor and medical doctor. I know that there are extreme forms of depression and other mental illness. Please understand that these tidbits of advice are not meant to be comprehensive. However, if they can help you or someone you know in alleviating depression, then these carved-out-of-experience words have served their purpose.
May the Lord bless you.