Families Impacted By Depression: How Can the Church Help?


How can churches help families impacted by depression to experience the love of Christ?

In today's segment of Understanding Depression in Kids and Teens…A Primer for Pastors, Church Staff and Christian Parents., we’ll offer some specific strategies for churches seeking to serve and welcome kids (and adults) with depression.

How can churches help families impacted by depression to experience the love of Christ? Here are some thoughts…

Give those with depression permission to talk about it. Steve Scroggin, President of Care Net (a network of pastoral counseling centers in North Carolina) made the following observation about depression in a USA Today story on pastoral suicide…

“Clergy do not talk about it because it violates their understanding of their faith,” said Scoggin. “They believe they are not supposed to have those kinds of thoughts.”

Our friend Matthew Stanford from Mental Health Grace Alliance was quoted in the same article…

Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.”

Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders — dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness.

When church leaders are willing to talk about depression, they send a clear signal that they’ve likely worked through the stigma associated with the condition in the church. Given the statistics suggesting that depression is more common among pastors than in the general population, lots of leaders have firsthand experience with the topic. It also demonstrates to persons in the church with depression that it’s safe to be authentic about their pain and struggles in the context of Christian community.

Consider offering faith-based support groups. Mental Health Grace Alliance has anexcellent model for such groups. In our concluding post in this series, I’ll touch on the theme that God may use the pain and suffering associated with depression to draw people into a closer relationship with Him. We have the hope of the world in Jesus. Who better to share with people who struggle with hopelessness!

Provide them with tangible help. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, high quality mental health services that are also affordable are in very short supply. Several churches in our area offer excellent short term counseling…in some instances, the counseling is made available for free. Knowledgeable advocates within the church willing to assist parents and families in accessing mental health care through their health insurance or local agencies provide an invaluable service. Free respite care for parents struggling with depression can be an incredible blessing. Churches prepared to include kids with special emotional, behavioral and healthcare needs will likely serve a disproportionate number of parents suffering from depression…the condition being more common among parents of children suffering from anxiety, depression, ADHD and other disruptive behavior disorders.

Dr. Steve Grcevich is a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry who serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry. He blogs at church4everychild.org and may be reached at steve@keyministry.org.



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