In Africa there is a concept known as “Ubuntu” (Oo-boon-tu). Literally translated, it means “humanity” or the concept of compassion and goodwill towards others. It brings with it the idea that “I am because we are”. We were created to be in relationship with God and with each other. It takes a village for us to thrive. We were not meant to struggle along through life on our own. Ideally, our community and relationships should sustain us, support us and mould us.
This brings us to the dilemma of depression.
When depressed, the last thing we feel like doing is interacting with people….. yet we wish that someone would notice how much we are struggling and offer a helping hand…. We wish someone would reach out in love and understanding… but the idea of having to be ‘real’ is overwhelming! We feel safer under our duvet and behind our masks.
I remember feeling so alone during my days under the “dark cloud” of depression.
While there were some precious people who supported me, I still felt so abandoned by many other of my friends and family. I felt that in my time of greatest need that I was alone and forsaken. I watched as people graciously responded to others who were physically ill, who had recently undergone operations, or who were generally in need. These people were visited and given gifts of encouragement, meals, offers of errands run, etc. Yet, there I lay, alone. A shadow of my former self, unable to draw enough strength to get out of bed to feed my family, or to attend to the needs of my husband and children.
Why is the physically ill person cared for and supported and not the person with a mental illness?
I believe that it all boils down to the fact that people are scared and uncomfortable with what they don’t understand? I have been in situations where people have greeted me and then quickly moved on, almost as if they are scared that I will suddenly ‘go nuts’ and throw myself at them in a fit of uncontrolled weeping. Now THAT would be embarrassing! There are so many negative labels attached to people with any mental illness – ‘psycho’, ‘mental’ ‘nut job’ ‘loony’, etc. None of which are particularly endearing….. It’s no wonder that we are often avoided like the plague!
There is definitely not enough education regarding mental health.
People just don’t understand what the depressed person is going through – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Many think that the sufferer is ‘just lazy’ or ‘playing for sympathy’, or ‘faking it’. They tell the person suffering to ‘snap out of it’, to ‘think positively’, to ‘have more faith’ and to ‘just be grateful’.
So, how do you respond to a person with depression? What is the best thing to do or to say?
One of my favourite people to follow is Dr. Michelle Bengtson. Not only is she a psychologist herself, but she has personally battled depression, so the advice she offers is solid . On her website, she offers some really good advice for people who want to know how to support a friend or a loved one who is going through depression of any kind. (See below for the links.) Depression is becoming an epidemic in our world. If we don’t make the effort to educate ourselves about depression, if we don’t equip ourselves on how to treat it and support those who suffer, then we are in serious trouble! We need to reach out with the spirit of ubuntu – because what affects one of us, will have an impact on all of us. We need to dig deep and discover how we can respond to and support those amongst us with mental illness.
One thing I know for sure, is that if we are ever going to see healthy whole people living the lives which God intended for them, it is going to take a village!
Resources for you
For a free ebook on how to help a depressed loved one, click here: https://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/
For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: https://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/
For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: https://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/
For suggestions on supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: https://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/