Many of you have talked about how your spiritual faith has helped you through some emotionally turbulent times. Others talk about having a rough time trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with accepting treatment (particularly medications) for depression. Still others have expressed that their religion makes them feel stigmatized for having a psychiatric illness. I began to wonder how the major religions viewed depression. Does religion perceive depression to be a biological illness or is there a perception that depression is a crisis of faith? Are there some religions that consider depression nothing more than “spiritual laziness?” Does religion place any faith in science to explain and treat depression? This post is an exploration to answer some of these questions. We would greatly appreciate your input as to how your faith has helped or hindered your journey towards mental wellness.
Gentle Reminder: I realize we are delving into delicate subject matter. Discussion of faith and religion can provoke strong reactions. The one thing I ask of you is to be respectful of others who may differ in their faith or their views about religion. Think of this as an exploration to learn more about how different faiths deal with mental illness. Every individual and every religion will deal with depression in a different way. Remember too that the following are but glimpses into how some people interpret their religion’s stance on the topic of mental illness. There will always be different views and perspectives within the same religious community. We ask that you give your personal interpretation or talk about your experiences in the form of a comment to this post.
Although there are many religions I have chosen a handful to begin our discussion including Christianity (particularly Catholicism), Buddhism, and Judaism.
Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. ---James 1:2-3
In a 2009 Christianity Today article entitled “The Depression Epidemic”, author Dan G. Blazner explores depression as it relates to religion. Blazner cites statistics which show that: “…in a typical congregation of 200 adults, 50 attendees will experience depression at some point, and at least 30 are currently taking antidepressants.” These high numbers cause some to question as to the cause of so much depression.
According to this article Christianity has recognized that depression can have biological roots but some question the validity of looking at depression as solely a product of our biology. Blazner points out that our high-paced life style and disconnection from fellowship and community can be contributing to this increasing trend towards developing depression. Blazner comes up with a new theory for depression which relates more to society and spirituality when he states: