What Depression Is
Depression is dejection, low spirits, or being discouraged or disheartened, especially when prolonged. Dis is Latin for negation or reversal, so when a person feels depressed, he or she is experiencing a negative condition, one that denies or voids, withdraws or retreats, or takes away from the positive. Little wonder that the person feels he is in a state of loss—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Anyone who has experienced it—and that probably includes every person at one time or another—knows the blackness and “lostness” of those feelings. Considering that Christ's promises give real reason to hope, some Mormons feel that depression (not caused by a physical reason) is giving in to believing Lucifer's lies about ourselves, others, the world, and the true nature of things.
What Depression Isn't
Depression, according to Church leaders, isn't a sign of failure, but the feeling of failure. Mormon apostle Neal A. Maxwell says that “Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.”
Depression or discouragement may come after the loss of a loved one in death, divorce, or other separation, like from God and his ways. It may come from job loss, economic reversal, ill health, impending death, and feelings of personal failure. It may come from frustration over wanting something that does not arrive or is delayed in arriving, and not exercising patience and submitting to God's will. It may come from feeling invisible, insignificant, singled out for adversity, or powerless. Or it may come only from a physical cause. Frequently it comes from Lucifer, who delights in tormenting mankind. Marvin J. Ashton, a Church leader, says that "One of Satan's most powerful tools is discouragement. Whisperings of 'you can't do it,' 'you're no good,' 'it's too late,' 'what's the use?' or 'things are hopeless' are tools of destruction." He also warned that “Satan is ever present, trying to destroy our glory and remove our crown. One of his most powerful tools is discouragement.”
- A person being kind to himself and understanding his infinite worth to Heavenly Father helps him overcome depression. Marvin J. Ashton counseled those suffering from depression to “not doubt your abilities. Do not delay your worthy impressions. With God's help, you cannot fail. He will give you the courage to participate in meaningful change and purposeful living.”
- A Mormon doctrine called the Word of Wisdom can help fight depression. This health code involves eating a healthy diet (little meat, whole grains, many fruits and vegetables, no coffee or tea) but no harmful or addictive substances like illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol (a known depressant). In addition, it encourages physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, which contribute to emotional health and stability. Using the advice of a physician, including taking recommended medication, either on a temporary or on-going basis, may be necessary to handle depression.
- Mormons have discovered that prayer and service lift their spirits and increase their self-esteem and feeling of power or control. Taking the focus off of themselves also helps put their problems in perspective and makes them feel they are not singled out for challenges. A day of service makes them feel useful and significant to others. “At the moment of depression, if you will follow a simple program, you will get out of it. Get on your knees and get the help of God, then get up and go find somebody who needs something you can help them with. Then it will be a good day.”
- Understanding Satan's role may help a depressed person overcome the evil influence. “Satan wants us to feel unequal to our worldly tasks. If we turn to God, He will lead us through our darkest hours.” Ashton counsels to not “let your discouragement make Satan rejoice.” Mormons believe that Satan and his followers delight in the unhappiness that they heap on the heads of Christ's disciples, and so they do not want to cooperate with nor reward the adversary.
- Reading about people in the scriptures who have handled adversity well helps lift the spirits of many Mormons. Lorenzo Snow, a Mormon prophet, said “If the Apostle Peter had become discouraged at his manifest failure to maintain the position that he had taken to stand by the Savior under all circumstances, he would have lost all; whereas, by repenting and persevering, he lost nothing but gained all. . . . “ Paul is another great example of not yielding to discouragement because he suffered all manner of physical and other ills yet refused to give into the temptation to feel sorry for himself. Of course, Christ is the best example of all as He constantly reminds men of the hope they have in Him.
- Repenting of sinful behavior will help overcome depression. Sin, Mormons believe, is destructive to not only others but to self. No one can engage in wrongful behavior without hurting himself, often manifested in depression.
- Fasting, doing without food and water for a limited period of time, can increase the power of a person's petitions for relief from negative feelings.
- Mormons often seek the strengthening and nurturing ordinances within the temple to help them fight depression.
- Mormons also request priesthood blessings to help them fight depression. These blessings can give comfort, guidance, cast out the influence of Lucifer, and even cure.
- Depressed members can get counseling services by going to ldsfamilyservices.org to find the nearest LDS Family Services office near them. They're located throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Mexico also has a new office that is gradually setting up various services. These offices provide out-patient services for a fee (in the U.S., approximately $60-70 a session of 50 minutes). Occasionally members who cannot afford fees may be fortunate enough to have them waived if qualified professional counselors who are members of their stake will counsel them privately. Members should also seek out depression support groups.
- Very often, depression is caused by hormone imbalances. Low thyroid can bring on suicidal depression. A sudden drop in progesterone levels after childbirth can bring on post-partum depression. Environmental hormones ("xenohormones") can block communications, mimic communications, or confuse communications of hormones in the body, wreaking havoc with brain chemicals. Bio-identical hormone replacement is gaining recognition as a safe way to restore hormone balance. Good sources of information can be found at the following websites: www.drhotze.com, and www.drlowe.com.