Depression: More than a Bad Hair Day

Contributed By By Sonja Carlson, Church News staff writer

  • 30 May 2014

People with depression yearn for spiritual feelings and the warmth of God’s love, but their symptoms often make it hard to sense and feel the Spirit’s positive comfort.  Photo by Hugh Carey, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • The most important thought to begin mending is “God loves me.”
  • Prayer is the key to keeping depression from destroying individuals.
  • Those with depression should maintain a strong support system, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and serve others.
  • Acknowledge with compassion that the pain a loved one with depression is experiencing is real and encourage them to receive help.

“I testify that Jesus Christ loves you, and He has the power to comfort, strengthen, and bless those who suffer with depression because He is the master mender.” —Amy C. Curtis, LDS Family Services

In a session of BYU Women’s Conference, speakers Amy C. Curtis and Rebecca H. Jackson, basing their remarks on a talk given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the October 2013 general conference, gave advice on how to combat depression and the many trials it can bring to those suffering from it.

Their presentation, “Depression: More Than a Bad Hair Day, Tax Deadline, or Discouraging Moment,” was given May 1.

Sister Curtis, a manager at LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City, compared those who suffer with depression to pottery, known for cracking, chipping, and breaking over time.

“Heavenly Father certainly knew that on our earthly journey we would encounter things that would chip, crack, and sometimes even threaten to break our mortal and spiritual vessels,” she said. “In the case of major depression, it can lead individuals to be broken beyond repair.”

Furthering her pottery analogy, Sister Curtis likened those with depression to Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken or damaged pottery with golden joinery. The word itself means “golden joinery.”

“But it means so much more than what the word describes,” Sister Curtis said. “One source says, ‘As an art form, Kintsugi points to valuing the history of something that has been broken and has [been] made whole again [with] a new identity. The new reformed whole contains both the remembrance of what has been before and what is now.’”

She said that the Savior is the master mender and the joiner of souls. “His infinite Atonement has the power to help us become strong in broken places,” Sister Curtis said.

People with depression yearn for spiritual feelings and the warmth of God’s love, she said, but their symptoms often make it hard to sense and feel the Spirit’s positive comfort.

“Consequently, their depression deepens, and hope for mending the brokenness diminishes, as they are left wondering, ‘Does God really care about me? Is He aware of my problems? If not, what hope do I have for becoming whole?’” Sister Curtis said.

She then gave some suggestions for reigniting hope in the lives of those with depression.

Think “God Loves Me”

She said the most important thought to have to begin mending is “God loves me.”

“God’s love can give those struggling with depression the courage and trust to turn over the broken pieces to Him,” Sister Curtis said.

Pray

Quoting President Ezra Taft Benson, Sister Curtis said that prayer is the key to keeping depression from destroying individuals.

“Sisters, I testify that the Lord will send answers to prayers with the ability to penetrate the darkest, darkest feelings of depression,” Sister Curtis said. “In fact, when we ask for His Spirit, it has the ability to heal us. The Lord wants to help us mend. We need to ask—and ask often—as often as it takes.”

Maintain Support System

She also encouraged those with depression to maintain a strong support system, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and serve others. There are also treatments that members of the Church can prayerfully consider for depression, she said.

“I testify that our mortal trials, such as depression, create a necessary dependence on the Lord,” Sister Curtis said. “We should feel no shame in submitting to His care. He has the power to transform us into something magnificent as we allow Him to heal our wounds. With His Atonement, He can mend and fill the cracks of depression. I testify that Jesus Christ loves you, and He has the power to comfort, strengthen, and bless those who suffer with depression because He is the master mender.”

Sister Jackson, a stake Young Women president who served with her husband as he presided over the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos Mission, shared the experience of her son’s diagnosis with depression and offered advice to those who are caregivers of people with depression.

“I am not a clinician nor a therapist, but I am so grateful for those who are, who have served our family so well and lovingly,” she said. “It’s beyond the scope of my expertise to talk about diagnoses or treatment options, but I am a parent. And so I’d like to speak from that perspective.”

Mental illness touches save but a few families, and from Sister Jackson’s perspective, “for both the sufferer and the family, entering the world of mental illness is like entering a foreign country with borders that are constantly shifting and [are] with a different culture.”

She said the first step to helping a loved one with depression is to acknowledge with compassion that the pain they experience is real and to encourage them to receive help.

“In encouraging a loved one who is suffering to seek help, you often hear, as Elder Holland said, that ‘there should be no more shame in acknowledging these afflictions than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor,’” Sister Jackson said. “The difference, sisters, is that the aforementioned challenges are widely accepted as legitimate. There is no stigma, and the person with the diagnosis, as difficult as it is, can wrap his healthy mind around what’s going on. But when it is the mind that is sick or the brain that is broken, the afflicted one’s ability to understand what is going on and make rational decisions [about] how to cope and receive spiritual comfort is very difficult, if near impossible.”

Caregivers are vital links in helping those afflicted stay connected to heaven, she said.

“I know that each of us can receive that heavenly guidance as we encourage our loved ones who are engulfed by very enormous mists of darkness to keep pressing forward with faith and hope,” she said. “We can become their iron rod, but only as we hold fast to the iron rod.

“My earnest prayer is that, as we walk the path required of us, we will be merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind, as Elder Holland asked us to be.”