Is mental illness a sign of spiritual weakness? Can pastors ever become depressed or mentally ill? Do Christians ever really become depressed? These are all reasonable questions. The respective answers are: No, not necessarily; yes; and, yes. Depression is a mental illness and is no respecter of persons; it can take anyone, especially someone with a genetic pre-disposition for it.
The truth is I felt guilty as soon as the thought crossed my mind. And this in ways that I write about resilience and hope and joy, at times perhaps, that does not cater at all for the person who's patently depressive.
Instantly I felt like a phony--and this is not bad. It drives a sense of repentance and a willingness to conform my thinking and 'words of advice' in ways more palatable for everyone. This response highlights that I'm perhaps not depressed myself currently; I could feel inadequate but I then recovered quickly, and in truth.
The fact of the matter is one in five people--yes; twenty percent of the Western populace--are going to suffer some form of depression illness, relating to mood disorder, anxiety and depression, over their lifetimes.
And this shaped mental illness takes no prisoners; it's often as insidious and as profound as to wreak temporal emotional and spiritual disaster. The most common profile of depression is a twenty-year journey of menacing entrapment that manifests itself so latently the sufferer forgets what it's like to be 'normal.' They've often adapted down to a 'functional' level of mood, barely scraping by. Then when the tidal wave hits despair is never too far away.
As An Aside, Other Things You Should Know About Depression
There is no medical test anyone can take to determine whether they're depressed or not. There is no way of telling that serotonin levels are suppressed; there are only lists of symptoms that tell us what to look for.
The commonest groups of sufferers are those in their adolescence and seniors. Our response should not be to simply say, 'It's a normal part of life,' in those stages of the lifespan. Depressed people should seek treatment so they can recover and feel normal again.
One thing we should all be prepared to do is recognise the symptoms in ourselves, our loved ones, friends and colleagues and to perhaps gently bring people to the realisation of how common mental illness is, and that there's no shame in it whatsoever. If we do recognise the symptoms, we should go see our doctor.