What Cross-Cultural Workers Ought to Know about Depression
It occurs to you that you have been feeling really sad, tired, discouraged about the future, unable to concentrate for some time, and you begin to wonder what is wrong. You just wish you could feel happy and enjoy life again. Certainly committed Christian cross-cultural workers could not be depressed, could they? Wouldn’t God keep them from that? Should you pray? See someone for counsel? See your physician? Will you get better? How long will you feel like this? Let’s consider some of these questions.
How do I know if I’m depressed?
The definition of depression changes slightly from time to time, but currently a person must have at least one of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for two or more weeks to be considered "clinically depressed:"
In addition, the person must have more than three or four of the following nearly every day for the same two or more weeks:
These symptoms must be bad enough to distress you or impair your daily functioning and not be caused by drugs, hormonal imbalance, or other physical problems. If you do not have at least five of these symptoms (including one of the first two), then you do not meet the definition of "clinical" depression. Even if you are not clinically depressed, suggestions in this brochure may be of benefit to you.
Can God’s people be depressed?
Depression is the "common cold" of psychological disorders. About 20 of every 100 women and about 10 of every 100 men experience clinical depression at some time in their lives. Christians sometimes deny that they feel depressed, but many do, as did God’s choice people thousands of years ago. Of course, there is no way we can go back and ask people in the Bible whether or not they have five or more of these symptoms, but let’s look at some things they said about themselves.
Can committed cross-cultural workers today be depressed?
Maybe heroes and heroines of the faith in Bible times became depressed, but what about some of our great cross-cultural workers since then? Let us look at what they said:
What Causes Depression?
Many different things may cause depression. Here are just a few:
Will I ever get over depression?
The good news is that although depressed people often feel so bad that it seems hopeless, most people recover from their depressions in a few months to a year or more without professional help. Depressions come, and, usually within months, they go. The bad news is that when people become depressed, the condition may interfere with their work and relationships. Some become so hopeless that they may try to take their own lives before they start to improve. Some types of depression do not get better without treatment; in fact, they can get worse. Other bad news is that about half the people who have depression once have it again.
What can I do about Depression?
Many people begin by trying to treat it themselves. Here are some things you might do:
If you have not been doing all the things listed below as preventives, do them
Also, recent evidence shows that St. John’s Wort, a common plant worldwide, may help relieve mild to moderate depression; it is widely used in Europe. Although it may not grow near you, it is widely available without prescription in pharmacies and wherever over-the-counter medications are sold. People who are seriously depressed and considering suicide should not attempt self-treatment, but seek professional help immediately.
Who can I see for help?
If self-help does not work, the kind of treatment you receive depends on who you see for help.
We have come to expect instant fixes for any problems we have, and you must be aware that none of these professionals can bring about a cure in a few days. All of these usually take several weeks, but they do often shorten the depression. In addition, your depression may have several causes, so that you need several different kinds of treatment at the same time. You can pray long, but if your depression is a result of your way of thinking or a side effect of a medication you are taking, God may answer your prayer through counseling and/or appropriate medication
Can I prevent depression?
There is no sure way to prevent any disorder. People inherit tendencies toward certain disorders, and if depression runs in your family, you are a more likely candidate. However, there are steps you can take that make depression less likely. The most helpful thing you can do is greatly to reduce stress!! Of course, telling cross-cultural workers to avoid stress is like telling them to quit; but fortunately, factors that increase happiness also tend to reduce stress.
Happy people tend to have:
Although depression is common, you can take steps to prevent it and recover from it. You can find joy and hope.
Ronald Koteskey is
Mental Health Resources
for Cross Cultural Workers