Monthly Archives: October 2012

Big Boys Don’t Cry – Guest blog by Hannah Malcolm

This summer, a Christian guy I know (and once knew a lot better) committed suicide. How do you process something like that? What terrible place did he reach that he felt he had to end his life to escape ‘the darkness’ (his words) that surrounded him? Where was his God when he cried out in pain – and why did he not feel able to reach out and tell anyone before life became unbearable? He was from a loving Christian family, and was part of a vibrant, active church – and yet he didn’t feel able to share his pain with anyone while he was alive.

It’s time that we acknowledge a big problem – a gap in the Church’s support (or even acknowledgement) that men struggle with depression too. Over the last few years, some fantastic books have been written by women (for women) on the topic of Christian life and depression or eating disorders – but men have not yet received the same kind of support.

Perhaps it comes down to the same old perceptions of what men and women struggle with – so often, Church pastoral work and accountability seems to focus on sex for men and self-image for women.

Perhaps it is a leftover of the ‘stiff-upper lip’ stereotype; men don’t feel able to explain how they are feeling because they don’t think they should. Perhaps it’s a lack of awareness about what depression is actually like – they don’t recognise that they are sick, and so don’t seek help.

Perhaps it is also the result of a slightly warped view of the biblical roles of manhood and womanhood, leaving men feeling as though they need to be strong and servant-hearted, and should be the ones looking after the women, not struggling with supposedly ‘feminine’ issues themselves.

Whatever the case, something needs to change for men in the Church. They don’t all have to start talking about their feelings, but they should certainly know that they are able to if they need help.

Is mental ill health the great unspeakable sin for men? There are two problems with such a view.

  1. Poor mental health is not a sin, it is a sickness. It is not always (or even often) associated with spiritual weakness.
  2. No sin should be unspeakable if we are relying on the grace of God and not our own strength. As Paul wrote, ‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ (2 Cor. 11:30). It is in weakness that ‘the power of Christ may dwell in me.’ (2 Cor. 12:9)

Hannah blogs regularly over at http://purposefulpurity.blogspot.co.uk.

Deal with it – Guest blog by Chloe Lynch

You need to deal with this. It’s not fair on your husband, your family or the church, he said.

For a moment, time stood still as I stared.  Had he completely misunderstood what I’d finally managed to say?  Wasn’t this older Christian supposed to be able to make sense of this, to encourage me, to speak wisdom into this brokenness?

Then, as I breathed out, time speeded up again.  The ache of the emptiness was stronger now.  I’d opened my heart in vulnerability and the message sent back to me was that this was my fault.  Christians, it now seemed, should not be depressed; it is not fair on these around them.  So, swallowing hard and fighting back the ever-threatening tears, I did the British thing: upper lip stiff, I changed the subject.

Later that day, I cried.  Two and a half hours of tears.  I know because I journalled it.  That whole time there were voices in my mind, accusing me, telling me that I was a failure and that everything I did was wrong.  I was too young, too female and too rubbish ever to do the things that God had whispered over my life years before.  How, the thoughts taunted me, did I think I could one day become a church leader if I couldn’t even hold my own life together?

You see, my friend had told me that all he had said to me about ‘dealing with’ my already two-year-old depression was to help me to operate in God’s call.  And I don’t doubt that he honestly believed that, and I have never questioned that his motive in this was good.  I know he spoke out of love.

But he also spoke out of naïveté.  He spoke out of a belief that depression is weakness, the conviction that all you have to do is pull yourself together and snap out of it.  He spoke, I suspect, out of a hope that it might prove this simple.

Yet it was not this simple.  I don’t suppose depression ever is.  As it happened, that depressive episode lasted another two years; in fact, the darkest days were, at this point, still to come.  Nevertheless, the darkness did not last forever.  There was hope, though I could not see it then.

And, one day, despite being too young, too female and too depressed, God did give me a church to lead.

A church of precious, vibrant people living joys and brokenness much like mine.

A church of troubled saints who need to know that Christians can be depressed or sick or lonely or self-harming without being told that it is not fair on those around them.

A church of the beautiful broken who need those who will speak a different word over their wounds than was spoken over mine.

This is the call he gave me, a call which took this depression of mine and redeemed it, a call which reminds me that even what is meant for evil can, in his hands, be turned to good.  He has done it for me and he will do it for you.

And so, to him alone, to the One who redeems all things, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations forever and ever.  Yes and Amen.

Chloe is a church leader and PhD student who blogs on life and leadership at http://theartofsteering.wordpress.com.

Depression: A Global Crisis, guest blog by Cathy Wield

There’s lots of talk now a days about depression and particularly noticeable is the mention of it in all the world wide economies. If I am cynical, I think this is probably because it has been shown to be one of the illnesses which cause the most absence from work and therefore it is in the respective government’s interests to reverse the upward trend in this global disease.

Whether this is real or not remains to be seen – is it more widely diagnosed now? Is it more medicalised or is it simply because the people of this world are uniquely more unhappy? Whatever the answer, which I suspect is a ‘yes’ to all three, it is a very individual illness. By that I mean that it is not just a linear measure of severity, but also the way each sufferer responds to the symptoms and the way each individual experiences the very same symptoms.

I speak very personally, as a survivor of a very serious form of the condition, severe chronic resistant depression, where I endured a continual seven year episode, spending most of the time in hospital and being treated with talking therapies, many different pharmaceutical recipes and physical therapies. Not only did I have multiple courses of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), but as a last resort I had brain surgery, which turned out to be highly effective and led to my miraculous recovery.

Fortunately most people who suffer with depression are as the ‘walking wounded’; unable to carry on their normal lives as usual, but not so severe that they end up in hospital. The world has dealt with these people variously with great empathy or horrendous cruelty depending on culture, history and stigma and often depending upon the religion of the community within which the suffering occurs. Today bringing this condition to the fore, represents the hope of reproducing some of the better care, such as warmth, music, talking, love and acceptance as well as the medical advances which have meant those with more severe forms of the illness can benefit.

Cathy is a published writer, and her latest book “Thorn in my Mind” can be bought on Amazon and Christian bookshops.