My best friend, and mother of five, committed suicide in May of this year. She experienced trauma and also suffered depression and debilitating illness. I cannot judge her, I can only mourn her loss.
Stephanie Clark Nielson, world-famous Mommy Blogger with 4 million followers fell from the sky in a plane crash with her husband. Eight-five percent of her body was badly burned. Her depression after the event was severe. Stephanie was in a coma for months. Yet not only did she live, she thrived. Her testimony of God and her gratitude for her children and other blessings saturate every page of her blog.
Why did Stephanie make it? Why do we lose people we love to mental illness and depression?
Chances are, you or someone you love has experienced trauma, depression or mental illness. The world is a difficult place. You cannot live in it without experiencing events that cause pain, grief, loss or even complete and utter despair.
Jeffrey R. Holland, former university president, author of eight books and recipient of the Torch of Liberty award recently shared what he learned following his own personal bout with Major Depressive Disorder or MDD.
Speaking of mental illness and depression, acknowledging it is a complex issue, Holland said, “However bewildering this may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.”
Holland reminded his listeners that Christ asked us to be compassionate toward each other. In 1st Peter 3:8 the Apostle Paul asked: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous…”
There are many reasons for depression and other mental illnesses and emotional challenges. These reasons include but aren’t limited to the following list:
An inherited condition or genetic predisposition.
Trauma, grief and loss.
Physical injury that leads to mental impairment.
Addiction or substance abuse that triggers mental illness.
Exhaustion, stress and physical illness.
Depression or MDD is more than having a bad day. It goes beyond sadness experienced due to day-to-day issues.
Holland explained, “I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest that it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively. Though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking. No. This dark night of the mind and spirit is more than just mere discouragement.”
Holland described his own experience being triggered when he was a young father with financial issues and staggering fatigue. He said that it was the grace of God and the love of his family that allowed him to continue to function and work. It gave him empathy for those more chronically afflicted than he was.
We often discount depression when we call it names like the “Baby blues,” But many prominent figures in history experienced it. Abraham Lincoln, Harrison Ford and J.K. Rowling have experienced it.
What you can do if you or someone you love experiences major depression? Holland provided the following list:
Know God loves you
Holland reminds us, “Above all never lose faith in your father in heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. ….that love never changes. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful God’s love is there for you whether or not your deserve it, it is simply always there. Never ever doubt that and never harden your heart.’”
Take time daily
to pray, study the scriptures, ponder and prepare yourself for your day.
Network with your clergy, healthy friends and family
Ask for help.
Monitor yours and your loved ones for signs of depression, suicide or mental illness
Be alert to fatigue, mood changes, or any other signs of depression.
Use professional help
When you break a bone you go to the doctor. When your mental and emotional health is unstable use a professional counselor. Listen to the guidance she gives you and prayerfully consider it.
Take it day by day, minute by minute
If you suffer or are a caregiver, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Be patient and celebrate small successes.
Do not harm yourself or others
Holland said, “Whatever your struggle, mental or emotional or physical or otherwise. Do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it. Trust in God, hold on in his love, know that one day the dawn will break brightly, and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are like a broken vessel, as the psalmist says, we must remember that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter.”
Believe in miracles
Holland said, “Believe in miracles. I have seen so many. They came when every indication of hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon, or fully, or seemingly at all remember the savior’s own anguished example. If the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead…”
Trust the atonement of the Savior
Disability, mental illness and so much of this life will pass away in the next.
Many of us have been broken. We have been broken-hearted, hurt and taken to the edge of the abyss of hopelessness. We have loved broken souls and found beauty in broken spirits, and we are not alone.
Holland closed by reminding us “Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”