A Note from Kelly King: Christmas is a time of joy but it can also be a time of sadness. For many, this sadness can be categorized as depression. In today’s article, Kaye Hurta addresses the seriousness of depression and how it robs many of joy.
The two sides of the same coin are wounding and wonder or pain and promise, if you prefer. In this life, we all hold both of these in one hand; they are two sides of the same coin. We hold this tension year round but it is far more pronounced during the holidays—especially Christmas!
We have entered a season on the church calendar called Advent. Advent is celebrated in the church during the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Traditionally there is a wreath that holds five candles. One is lit each of the four Sundays, and the fifth is lit on Christmas Day. The first candle represents hope, as proclaimed through the prophets. The second is love, as demonstrated in the manger when Love (Jesus) was birthed. The third candle represents joy as announced through the shepherds. The fourth represents peace as heralded through the angels. The final candle is the Christ candle which represents Him as the light of the world.
Last week we took a glance at the second theme of advent, love. This week we will look at the theme for the third week of Advent and then flip the coin over and see it through the lens of someone in pain. It is my prayer that it will help you lead and minister to those who are hurting through the holidays.
Go ahead a light a candle (literally or figuratively) to represent Joy.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Current research suggests it is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. The CDC reports that today in America alone, over 12% of adults (not including children) suffer with depression on some level. And then there are the children. It seems, and research is supporting, that more children suffer with depression now than at any other time in history.
The White House Conference on Mental Health reports that depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides each year. It also asserts that untreated depression is the number one risk factor for suicide among youth, and it is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.
Is there any doubt that depression or overwhelming sadness is the wounding we hold next to the wonder we call joy? Adding to the feeling of emotional suffocation, Christ followers who struggle with depression experience crippling shame for not being able to “access the joy of the Lord.” Nothing could be further from the truth, and as leaders we must NEVER add to their shame and guilt in this way.
Here are 5 ways you can help someone struggling with depression:
- If the person is considering suicide or is talking about harming themselves or others, get help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (talk).
- Watch for symptoms lasting more than two weeks. There are several; here are five of the most common: frequent, prolonged, unprovoked sadness; lack of interest in once enjoyable activities; weight gain or weight loss; disrupted sleep patterns (too much or too little); difficulty concentrating.
- Have a critical conversation with the person; it may be hard, but it will be helpful.
- Be firm about next steps but not confrontational. Remember, if it were in their power to “snap out of it” or “cheer up,” they would have already.
- Know your limitations. You cannot fix the problem, but you can and should be ready to make referrals for next steps.
As always, giving the gifts of listening well and loving well go a long way in helping someone who is hurting. I know this first hand. For years I have struggled with Seasonal Affect Disorder. It is more commonly known as the “winter blues.” Over the years I have learned how to manage my symptoms successfully. Having other people check in is extremely helpful. I have friends who will ask me the hard questions about how I’m doing, and they are committed to pray for me each winter (and I’m sure beyond that!). Let’s offer the same to those we lead. Let’s be on the look out for people who seem to be struggling especially around the change in seasons and the holidays.
Psalm 30:5b says, “…Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning” (NASB). I’m counting on it!
If you or someone who know is struggling with depression, please seek professional help. There is help! If you or someone you know is having thoughts to harm yourself/themselves please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255 (talk).
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.