A person who responded to last week’s blog offered some ideas I want to share. This person said perhaps it would be better if parents and students watched the 13 Reasons Why series together and used it as an opportunity to have deep conversation about depression and suicide. I totally agree! Great idea! Thanks to our blog reader for suggesting it. I confess I tend to react to the topic out of fear for what people do with information they aren’t ready for or can’t handle once they are exposed. But, I also believe dialogue and discussion around important issues is the best prevention for much of what seeks to destroy us in one form or another.
Dr. Greenwood’s Depression Chart
Before we leave this topic for now, I remembered our beloved family physician, Dr. Melanie Greenwood, who delivered all three of our children. Now retired, she had an amazing career as a physician and remains an incredible person. In every one of her treatment rooms, this “poster” hung on the walls, carefully placed, so every patient could see it while Dr. Greenwood sat on her mobile chair.
One day, during my annual physical, I asked Dr. Greenwood, “Why do you have that poster in every exam room? I’ve been in every room you have, several times over, and it is prominently placed. May I ask why?” She said, “I have purposefully placed the charts in each exam room because I find that many patients will tell me, ‘I have a lot of those symptoms but I didn’t know I was depressed.’”
The following chart, with a little more detail, may be useful.
Help for Depression
My faithful blog reader also said something very profound, which I need to share. When a person suffers from depression, it demands both medication and therapy. To do one without the other is dangerous. The reader said, “Many depressed people don’t have the energy to kill themselves, but with the medication and feeling better have the energy to do it.” This is incredibly important and profound. I have found it to be true on a number of occasions. I have also known people who are deeply depressed who are going to therapy on a regular basis but are not seeking psychiatric medication. For someone who is deeply depressed, both medication and therapy are essential.
I want to offer some shameless advertising….people I trust who do really good and important work in this area:
We have a staff counselor who is excellent. Roberta Schouten has a counseling center at Chapel Hill and meets people during evenings and on weekends. If you would like to see Roberta, please contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org Her website is www.thecomfycouch.net Roberta has her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a certified addictions counselor.
For those needing medication or a specialist’s intervention, I would highly recommend Dr. Murphy and his wife Debra (Advanced Nurse Practitioner), both of whom do amazing work with medication. They have a clinic near Webb and 21st Street. Their number is 316-636-2888.
No One is Immune to Depression
Finally, may I offer my pastoral perspective? Depression is no respecter of persons. By that, I mean, no-one, regardless of age, stage, socio-economic status, gender, etc, is exempt from the disease of depression. Sometimes people have no obvious reason for depression but struggle with a chemical imbalance. Sometimes people have anger turned inward and consequently they fall into depression. It is a complex subject and I don’t, for a moment, want to make it out to be something silly or simple. It is not that at all.
Sometimes, people tell me that if they only had enough faith, they would not feel depressed. Sometimes people tell me that if such and so had a deeper faith, they would suffer from clinical depression. Having faith does not mean one will never become depressed. Having faith, in the midst of depression, is another “tool” in the tool kit of life. It is important, it is helpful, and it has the power to sustain and strengthen through the most difficult times.
When Praying Feels Difficult, the Jesus Prayer
I often hear from depressed people that praying takes too much energy. I always say, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” During my clinical pastoral studies years ago, I was often assigned to the psych ward. By God’s grace, unlike many of my colleagues, I did not feel threatened by or fearful of those struggling with mental illness. The patients, all ages, would often ask me how to pray when they didn’t feel like praying. I learned from a very wise man, who had been through depression himself, how to pray when you don’t feel like it. He taught me the Jesus prayer. The Eastern Orthodox Church, to this day, teaches the Jesus prayer as the prayer of the heart.
It goes like this. “Lord Jesus, have mercy, on me.” The expanded form is, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” The teachers of the prayer emphasize you say as many or as few words as needed to pray. I have offered this “tool” to many people over the years and it is amazing how helpful it can be. Sometime I will do a blog just on the Jesus Prayer, as it is called. Whenever I have a hard time praying, the Jesus Prayer primes the pump of my heart/mind/spirit/body = soul.
Somebody will say, “Jesus said not to engage in vain repetition.” Jesus is not against repetition. He was teaching against vain repetition. There is a critical difference. For some mysterious reason, repetition comforts the soul, most especially the troubled one. That is why, when I am troubled in my soul, I will repeat the 23rd Psalm over and over and over until peace comes over me.
Still In One Peace,