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 19th November 2000

"COPING WITH DEPRESSION."
   
Psalm 42 & 43 


In this series of talks on the Post Olympic Blues, the hot topic among many Sydney psychiatrists and psychologists, I introduced you to the term POD. POD stands for Post Olympic Depression Syndrome. While 250,000 people headed for the airport after a night of partying at the end of the Atlanta Games, "a lot of people went into P.O.D -- Post-Olympic Depression" a 1996 article said. I was prepared to see how Wesley Mission could help people cope with the let down after the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2000 AD. The anticipation was correct, especially among those heavily involved in the Games, including the 45,000 wonderful volunteers. Something went out of their lives when the Olympic flame went out. 

Why do so many people suffer from feeling flat and being depressed? Why do people who have every reason for feeling great, get depressed? In the Old Testament, King Ahab was once confronted by a prophet of God who told him why he had failed. "The king went back home to Samaria, worried and depressed ..." Ahab lay down on his bed facing the wall, and would not eat. His wife Jezebel went to him and asked him: "Why are you so depressed? Why wont you eat?" .. later... "Ahab tore his clothes, took them off, and put on sackcloth. He refused food, slept in the sackcloth, and went about gloomy and depressed." 1 Kings 20:43, 21:4?5,27 GNB These experiences are similar to those experienced today among people who are depressed. Major depression can come without apparent cause, although there is usually a distressing trigger event. Major depression can come in people who cope well with life, who are good at their work and happy in their relationships.


1. MOST PEOPLE EXPERIENCE S0ME FLAT TIMES.
A biological map of Sydney, covering 132 postcode areas, based on 32,000 people who attended for medical examinations show that more than one third of Sydney people suffer from feelings of depression. Stress, guilt and remorse, procrastination and an inability to get on with work, inability to handle decision making, lack of concentration and energy, poor sleep, feelings of unworthiness and fear of disease and death were common in more than one third of all people. Other statistics reveal that one in every five women and one in every ten men suffer at some time or other from depression. Post-natal depression and manic depression, known as bipolar disorder, affects one in every one hundred people. Depression can affect anyone. 

2. WHAT CHARACTERISES DEPRESSION? 
Depression covers a broad range of negative feelings, some short?term, and others long?term. Professor Gordon Johnston, the Professor of Psychiatry at Sydney University says that depressed people have feelings of being low in spirit, unwell, worthless, despairing, pessimistic, often not wanting to get out of bed, losing appetite, feeling alienated and alone, unable to sleep with loss of sexual urges. They suffer loss of self?esteem, indecisiveness, dejection, and despair. There are spiritual effects as well. The depressed person feels guilty, sinful, unworthy, and apart from God. All of these characteristics of depression can be illustrated from scripture, as he who cried: PSALM 42:2?3,5, 3 "My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?" 

Psalm 42, 43 and 69 are Psalms of a depressed man. Many individuals in scripture like Elijah, suffered depression.

3. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DEPRESSION?
Some causes may be biochemical. Some, suffering from bipolar disorder or manic depression hit depths of despair, then periods of normalcy followed by period of excessive joy. This is not the fault of the person but is the result of a chemical imbalance. Likewise endogenous or major depression occurs due to a biochemical process that changes their behaviour, perhaps for long periods. Hormonal changes such as in menopause, and in post-natal conditions following childbirth can change behaviour patterns. In all these cases relief can be given though medication.

Some causes may be psychological. Traumas in childhood may have the effect of inducing depression later in life. The person may feel guilty. They may feel frightened and abandoned. They may think poorly of themselves. An extensive survey of Harvard University students show that over a four year period about 25% of students drop out of their courses. Of these, 40% require psychiatric help, mostly for depression caused by the awareness of the gap between being regarded as a brilliant student from their high school days, and the reality that Harvard is filled with students more brilliant than themselves. Some causes may be spiritual. Great failures and loss through death can alienate a person from God. They feel hostile toward God. Sinful action may lead to unresolved guilt that requires forgiveness. Despair pervades their lives, which lack meaning. What can be done to break this cycle of despair?

4. WHAT ARE THE CURES FOR DEPRESSION?
What can you do when you feel depressed? Those forms of depression due to chemical imbalances require medication. Other forms require good counselling. What can you do with the flat times in your life? Sometimes we may bring our depression upon ourselves. Intemperate activity, overwork coupled with anxiety, traumas associated with family life and personal achievement, unrealistic expectations and negative thinking about ourselves can all lead to prolonged flat times in our lives. Good counselling is necessary from a professional. There is a good chance of healing by a change in life-style and healthier thinking. The causes may be complex. At our Wesley Private and Wandine Private Hospitals medical teams work to heal people. 

For some months I have been meeting regularly with Professor Ian Hickey, internationally recognised psychiatrist working in this field. He is the new chief Executive (in Melbourne) of the National Depression Initiative and he joins Bernard McNair, Senior Manager of our Wesley Mission hospitals and health services, and a number of other significant health professionals and myself over breakfast in the Westin Hotel to bring into existence the Australian Depression Foundation. This key group believes the incidence of depression in Australia is so serious that an initiative beyond that which is provided in our overcrowded public hospitals is needed. There are preventative measures able to be instituted in the workplace. I will have Professor Hickey from Melbourne on my 2GB radio program over the next two weeks, together with Jeffrey Kennett, former Premier, now head of a national depression initiative. 

Wesley Mission Sydney, with our expertise in more than 60 psychiatrists and psychologists in our two mental hospitals is on the cutting edge of this healing initiative. As both our hospitals are registered university teaching Hospitals in the fields of psychiatry, we are the foremost private sector people in Australia on this issue of healing people with depression. 

Those who suffer from biochemical imbalance need careful assessing and chemical supplements by means of prescribed drugs. We are fortunate in having among our membership of this Mission both Christian Psychiatrists and general practitioners who can diagnose bipolar and dysthymic depression and prescribe the correct drugs required. Careful counselling from a professional psychiatrist or psychologist can help those who suffer from reactive depression brought about by traumas that have overwhelmed them. We are fortunate in having in this Mission such professionals who are dedicated to helping sufferers from depression by careful therapy.

Those who suffer from neurotic depression brought about by the conflict between their high expectations and low realities, low self-image and poor concepts of their own self-worth, burdened by guilt and a sense of alienation, can be helped by careful spiritual ministry. We are fortunate in having in this Mission professional ministers trained in counselling and spiritual guidance who can show you from the scriptures the resources of the faith which will enable you to realise who you are, how your guilt can be taken away, and how you can have a true sense of your own self worth. 

5. CHRISTIANS CAN HANDLE DEPRESSING TIMES. 
Through careful diagnosis, treatment with medication, therapy, counselling and a healthier life-style, you can again praise God, and live serenely and with happiness. All who suffer from flat times in their lives can benefit from some general good health practise. You should exercise. You should have a sensible diet, avoiding fats and sugar. You should avoid alcohol. You should pay attention to areas of life that create stress. You should talk to someone if there is a continuing problem. You should set yourself some goals and have some creative activity.

Note how the Psalmist coped: Psalms 42:8-11 "By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God." The Psalmist spoke to God about his troubles in prayer, read His word, questioned why he was feeling so flat, and put his hope confidently in God.

Yet someone will say, "Is there any evidence that practical religion can help you?" 11th August 1998 In USA TODAY I read a report of psychiatrists who studied 2,391 people for the past six years. This is a finding of the National Institute For Health Care Research, and the study is published in the Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. The author, Dr David B Larson reports some relevant findings:

"People who attended a religious service once a week and prayed and studied the Bible once a day, were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure than those who don't go to church or pray or study the Bible. If they rely upon the radio or TV for their religion, this wasn't nearly as beneficial. It shows church attendance is good for your health."

Other studies show a positive link between religious activity and prayer and health benefits. Researchers found church visits improved the mental health of people over 65 years. Adults who attended church at least once a week, were less likely to have high levels of interleukin-6, an immune system protein associated with age-related diseases. Researchers say more research is needed but they could positively state that going to church is healthy! Dr David B Larson concludes "There are two parts to religion. One is personal and one is social. There is something about the social part that is very important and you don't get that sitting on your couch in front of TV."

The personal and spiritual part of religion can lift you up, give you goals, meaning and purpose, assure you that you are not alone, forgive you of your sins and remove the depressing burden from your heart. Furthermore, you associate with people who are joyous and who lift their hearts in praise. Depression is defeated by a spirit of sustained thanksgiving. Songs of joy will flow from your lips when you understand that God has accepted you, forgiven your guilt, freed you from your burden and given you a new sense of significance by making you one of His children. Commit yourself to Jesus Christ, as God's only Son and the answer to your every need. Give God praise, and get on with living! 


 
  • USA TODAY 11th August 1998 
  • AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY 149:12 December 1992
  • HOSPITAL AND COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRY Vol 43 No 12 Dec 1992
  • NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH STRATEGY Fact Sheet Oct 1996

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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