Depression is one of life’s more challenging trials because so many people don’t understand it and are embarrassed to seek help. It is a medical issue and should be treated no differently than any other medical condition. A doctor can evaluate the cause of the depression and prescribe medication to help with the chemical imbalances or other physical causes. A psychologist can assist with the emotional causes of depression. A religious leader can assist in the spiritual aspects of the illness. The person who has depression can work with all these people, and directly with God as well, and find hope and help.
It is not helpful to presume you wouldn’t be depressed if you had more faith or just tried harder to have a good attitude. While faith and hard work are components of healing, for many people, they are not enough, particularly if there is a physical reason for the depression. Faith and effort are important to the healing process, but depression is not a sign that you lack either of them.
Sometimes people mistakenly think that a person who is experiencing depression must not be a good Christian. Kathleen H. Hughes, a counselor in the General Young Women’s Presidency (the international leadership of a program for Mormon teen girls) is certainly a good Mormon and a good Christian. She said,
“I have dealt myself with the debilitating effects of depression. But I have learned from my own experience, and I learn from those I meet, that we are never left to our own resources. We are never abandoned. A wellspring of goodness, of strength and confidence is within us, and when we listen with a feeling of trust, we are raised up. We are healed. We not only survive, but we love life. We laugh; we enjoy; we go forward with faith.
The living water also nourishes. I testify to you that just as He promises, Christ comes to all who are heavy laden; He gives us rest (see Matt. 11:28). He sustains us when we are weary. A wellspring is a flowing well, offering continual refreshment—if we drink of it. Pride can destroy its effects, as can mere inattention. But those who drink deeply not only become whole themselves, but they become a fountain to others, as one spirit nurtures and feeds another.” (Kathleen H. Hughes, Blessed by Living Waters, April 2003 General Conference).
Depression is not restricted to those who are emotionally or spiritually weak. While only a doctor can help with the more serious effects of depression, faith can help with the spiritual aspects. Sister Hughes noted that we can turn to Christ for strength and help as we work through the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of depression. He has been mortal and understands its unique challenges.
While we work through the medical requirements, it is essential not to lose sight of our spiritual medicine as well. Make time each day for prayer, scripture study, and pondering. When we take our challenges to God and then wait quietly as He places the much-needed peace into our hearts, we feel less alone. We can be more certain the doctors and psychologists are helping us appropriately because we are entitled to inspiration about our care. We keep ourselves centered on what is really important and don’t allow our depression-induced feelings to distract us from eternal priorities. With the help of Jesus Christ, we can survive even the greatest of trials.