(Part 3 of a series on Mental Health Awareness. Read Part 1 here, Read Part 2 here)
Sabrina is a 35 year old female. She goes to work, unwillingly, but the bills have to be paid. She was barely eating, food was not appetizing, even her favorite Thai food dish, Chicken Pad Thai.
She has not been able to sleep well for the past 3 months because her mind is racing and worrying about all the things that she is responsible for. Some of her worries were related to whether she was being a “good mom” to her children, and whether her husband still loved her. It did not help that she got phone calls from her parents often reminding her of what she “could have been.”
It did not help that she had 3 kids under the age of 5. The sadness and emptiness she felt only got worse after the birth of her youngest who is now a year old. She no longer wanted to go to family events or to church because, well, “everyone is looking at me. They are judging me. I’m never going to be good enough for anyone.” It was all too much.
Bobby is 14 and a freshman in high school. He lives with his parents and younger brother. Until now, Bobby got good grades and was an obedient child. Family life was great, they all got along. But these last two years have been different. COVID-19 changed everything for him. He could no longer see his friends, go hang out, participate in extracurricular activities. Then people he knew started coming down with the illness.
“Should I be freaking out about COVID?” “Why can’t I see my friends?” So he started playing video games online and chatting with friends on messaging platforms. What started off as simple and innocent turned into something more serious. He was now playing and texting with other kids, and he was being cyber bullied. He started withdrawing from time with family.
He was taking food to his room and sleeping most of the day. His stomach hurt and he would try to stay home from school. His grades started to drop and his motivation disappeared. He could never imagine telling his parents, so he suffered alone, believing the things he was told, and worrying about the pandemic.
Do you find yourself sleeping too much or too little; eating too much or too little? Feeling fatigued or slowed down? Do you find yourself not as interested in the things that once brought you joy? Does it ever feel like you have no one to talk to, or that they would not understand? Feeling lonely but you do not want to be around anyone?
Do you sometimes feel like you do not want to be around anymore, you no longer want to live? You may feel irritable, and have difficulty with maintaining concentration, or a loss of memory. Sometimes it may take a long time to complete a task and there is inability to deal well with stress, or you are not doing your regular tasks and activities.
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you may relate to having feelings or symptoms of depression.
Depression is a very common mental health disorder that affects over 264 million people worldwide. It can be long-lasting, recurrent, or situational. Depression is more than just a brief emotional mood variation, fluctuation or a short response to an everyday stressor. Depression lasts longer. The time frame can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years, or even longer for an official diagnosis depending on the type of depression. Depression is not sadness. Sadness is shorter in duration and intensity.
Many or all of the symptoms above are caused by biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. Going to a variety of life stressors could promote having an episode of depression. These stressors may include job loss, death, health issues, lack of connection, traumas, amongst many other factors. Depression can also coincide with other medical issues. We are all susceptible to feeling some effect by the stressors in our lives. We all often say that we are “stressed” and “have too much on our plates.”
We all can come under the pressures of depression. There are many examples in the Bible of individuals chosen by God for great and mighty acts such as Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, Jeremiah, Job, Jonah, and many more. Read this: https://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/job/3.html.
Any one of us could have said these statements had we been through the same thing. All of these men were all able to feel the symptoms of depression, yet still fulfill what they were called by God to do. It was not an immediate process. They suffered. But they also persevered.
Psalm 42:11 (NIV) David says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Depression should not be looked at as a stumbling block. There is help, and if dealt with healthily and wisely, there can be great healing.
As of 2017, the National Institute of Health estimated 17.3 million adults (7.3%) in the United States have experienced at least one depressive episode. More specifically, 13.1% of adults in this population were of ages 18-25. Adult females tend to experience depression more than adult males.
Since COVID-19, around March 2020, of the adults who took a depression screening, 8 out of 10 were identified as having symptoms of moderate to severe depression. Now these numbers only account for individuals who are completing surveys, so the number could be higher.
From January 2020 to September2020, according to Mental Health America (MHA), the rate of depression increased 63% from 2019 in adults. The rate of Asian Americans accessing screening from 2019 to 2020 went up 7%.
In MHA’s screening of youth ages 11-19, they found scores of moderate to severe levels of anxiety and depression. The CDC in 2018 reported children ages 3-17, approximately 1.9 million, have diagnosed depression. Older adults aged 65 and older, and their caregivers are also susceptible to depression as well.
The statistics can go on. These numbers, in reality, are probably higher than reported. What is more important is that we address these concerns. A lot of this research is done with those seeking treatment, with those that are completing surveys.
- Be empathetic
- Listen without giving advice
- Validate the feelings expressed
- Choose the right time to talk
- Challenge thoughts of hopelessness, stick to facts
- If you don’t know what to say, it’s okay to say “I don’t know what to say but I am here.”
A great example of this can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZBTYViDPlQ
- Avoid being critical, do not judge what they are saying, do not say that they should not feel this way.
- Pray and provide continuous support
- If you don’t know how to support an individual, connect them to someone who can
- Communication- find someone to talk to
- Social and Spiritual Support - reach out to friends, parents, Sunday school teachers, pastors, etc.
- Call a helpline if needed (numbers below)
- Medical/Mental Health evaluation, seek therapy
- Take care of yourself, eat well, sleep adequately, exercise, eliminate use of alcohol or drugs
- Focus on positives
- Give yourself grace and forgiveness
Depression is something that is real, something we cannot avoid talking about or dealing with. It’s time we normalize the conversation. Time to come out of hiding and be vulnerable with one another. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Vulnerability brings us together, and together the healing begins.
- 24 hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text to 741-741 (you can talk to them about anything, does not matter what you’re dealing with. It is free and confidential)
- Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas: (214) 828-1000
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) Hotline: 1-800-662-4357
- Samaritans: 1-877-870-4673
- National Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673
If you’re not in a crisis, and you need help finding services:
- HERE FOR TEXAS navigation line: CALL 972.525.8181
- Monday–Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.