Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clinical Depression Takes A Friend

I know I've talked about depression before, including my own. But two things have brought this to the front burner . . . actually three. The first one is that I learned Tuesday that a friend, more of a business acquaintance, had taken his own life that morning. I was stunned. He left behind a wife and two children. In the photo, Steve is the one in the back sweater. He was in publishing and I had written several articles for his magazine plus reviewed articles for him that others had written. I did not know that he even suffered from depression . . . nor should I have known. I mean, we only knew each other on a business level. It seemed so sudden. His blog posting the night before was normal. . . . publishing stuff.

Before I got the e-mail about Steve, I was thinking about the suicide that same morning of the CFO of Fannie Mae, David Kellerman. He had hung himself, also leaving a wife and children. I want to explore this topic again, not digressing into my own experiences but more about depression in general . . . and how we react to it.

I've decided to abort this discussion for the simple reason that I've talked about mental health and the evangelical response before and I feel I am beating a dead horse if I go there again.

Earlier this week it was weighing heavily on my mind. In summary, I think among Evangelicals that depression often goes underground because we have been taught that the fruits of the spirit include "joy." Therefore, if you express your depression, then you can't have you head screwed on correctly . . . from a good Christian standpoint.

But, if you believe that the brain can influence your mood, and the brain has been subject to the fall (both genetically and through difficult life experiences) then you will recognize that depression can be a real disease and often the victim . . . well, is a victim. That isn't to say that they are helpless. There are ways to fight against depression. Re-thinking (cog native restructuring, renewing of the mind) and sometimes medications (as well as rest). Of course prayer. But I even say prayer with hesitation because Evangelicals have, too often in my opinion, see prayer as a magic wand. Say a prayer and presto, you problems will be over. When the problems don't magically go away, then you have to move up to the 40th floor to insulated yourself from the reality of the mood disorder down in the basement. You can live up on the 40th floor, big smiles on your face, living in denial . . . until they find your body and your suicide note.

I have no clue about Steve's history. Maybe he was very open about his mood disorder. I don't know if he was a Christian or not.

It was strange, but as a young Christian when I was in college, I was taught by my Navigator leader that once you are a Christian, you are protected from many things (physical, spiritual harm) including mental illness. That's why it was such a confusing paradox when one of our Nav members, Owen, killed himself over Christmas break. We had to assume he was simply in sin. I wish I could go back to those days and spend many hours talking to Owen . . . and just listening.

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