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How to Help a Loved One with Depression

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
May 5, 2021 6:00 am

How to Help a Loved One with Depression

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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May 5, 2021 6:00 am

Stephen Arterburn helps listeners to better understand and assist loved ones in their healing, reminding them that anyone can suffer bouts of depression that develop for various reasons.

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Ken spends a lot of time away from home working on the pipeline in Alaska, but our podcast has become his lifeline. Focus on the family has helped my marriage by leaps and bounds. You give us so much meat and potatoes to think about. It just keeps us grounded, keeps me grounded.

I'm Jim Daly. Together we can bring real hope to marriages like Ken's. Give today at slash Real Families. And you could be the one who comes to them and says, I love you. I care about you.

I don't care what these other people think. I'm here for you. Well, if someone you love is depressed, you may feel helpless at times, but there is hope available through Christ. And Stephen Arterburn is here to provide that encouragement that you need. Welcome to Focus on the Family.

Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. John, depression is pervasive in our culture today. I don't know why we are the most connected culture in world history and at the same time the loneliest and perhaps the most depressed.

So I don't know how these things are are working against us, but something's up and I think it's a spiritual issue. But here's the goal. There is hope and healing for those who are feeling anxious and depressed.

You don't have to remain there. And certainly we want to give you the tools to cope better with that depression in our conversation today. We want to deepen your understanding of those around you who may feel depressed. And I think it's very important for us that aren't in that space to be equipped with the tools to do the things that are the right things to do for our loved ones around us. Maybe a neighbor who is experiencing depression. And we have a great book for you.

It's called Understanding and Loving a Person with Depression. It's written by Stephen Arterburn and the late Dr. Brenda Hunter, and it's available from us here at Focus on the Family. Just give us a call. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family.

Or stop by the episode notes. You'll find the link there. And Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and is a teaching pastor at Northview Church in Indiana. And it's always a pleasure to have you here, Jim. Steve, welcome back to Focus on the Family. It's good to have you.

Thanks for having me. And this is a topic I love talking about because it's the one area that we don't seem to be making much progress in our society. And I'm with you.

I think it's because of spiritual deprivation out there among a lot of folks. Well, that's the foundation of the discussion. The subject of depression, Steve, is personal for you. So you're not speaking as if you're just a clinician that is working with people that have experienced it.

I mean, you have fought this battle. And especially, I think, in your teens and 20s. In that context, what happened for you and what was the origin of that depression that you yourself experienced? Well, I had a very tough breakup with a girlfriend in high school. And then I went to Texas A&M and I was a singing cadet and a soloist.

And people said, you should go to Baylor to major in music. And I went there and discovered how mediocre I was compared to so many. And so there was loss after loss and disappointment. And so I ended up in the clinic there getting prescribed antidepressant medication.

And going there with sunglasses on thinking that that was just a normal thing that you would do. But it was hard for me to look anybody in the eye. So I know what it's like to not be able to pull yourself out of something that trying harder just makes trying harder. It's really a hard place to be. Yeah, and, you know, Steve, for those that have not been around depression or experienced that in themselves or in loved ones, what does clinical or serious depression look like?

What are the signs to look for in that person near you? Well, someone with clinical depression would be sad or depressed most days. And you would also feel like all the energy is just drained. So you'd see somebody that used to do a lot of things, not be able to do much. They'd either be gaining weight or losing weight.

They'd either be sleeping all the time or not able to sleep. Their interest's gone and their energy gone and their ability to connect with other people is absolutely gone. And I think a big thing that happens is they're just obsessed with themselves because they are miserable and they don't know what to do about it. When you look at the causality of depression, obviously loss is one. But describe some of those circumstances that can create depression in a person. Well, you know, if you had a parent that was depressed, you're two to four times more likely to be depressed. So there is this environmental factor that sets you up for it.

There's also, they believe, about a 40% genetic influence on depression. But it's not just loss. I think one of the biggest problems in our society today is unrealistic expectations.

People, they make it and they think it's going to do something for them. And instead, it's very disappointing. And when we talk about spiritual deprivation, it's not that people that have depression are spiritually weak.

We know that that isn't true. And many of them are very, very good at working hard at living, but it just doesn't produce anything. But if we don't focus on the spiritual things of life as a culture and a society, we're always looking for more. And when more produces so much less than you expected, then you're going to be miserable.

Well, and maybe even a multiplier effect, right? You feel even more depressed since all that effort went nowhere. Well, how many people, I mean, I worked with a guy who's 70 years old, retired, sold his company, had all the money he needed. Absolutely hated his life after he retired. Wish he had never sold the company because now rather than having something to do, he just had money in the bank. Well, he had money before that. And, you know, he finally got treated for depression.

And this is really the expectation thing you were mentioning. He had attained everything he thought was important. Right. So you know what he did? He went to culinary school and became a chef and volunteered at the local mission and is probably the most fulfilled person in the entire world. But it took him hitting the wall and being depressed.

Yeah. You know, in the book, Steve, you reference Charles Spurgeon, and I never knew this. I was reading this to my wife, Jean, and she never knew it either. What took place in his life, because so many people see Charles Spurgeon as a pillar of the faith, a great writer, a great orator of the Christian foundational principles. But what happened that caught your attention? Well, you know, at 15 he became a Christian, 16 he became a preacher, 17 he had his first church. And by the time he was 23, they just couldn't find a place big enough.

So he went over to the Royal Surrey Gardens, which was a secular venue where 11,000 people could be seated. And that night that he came over, they said that buggies, and this was back in the 1800s, buggies in cars were lined up for seven miles to get in. Pastors were jealous. When everybody was there and he came up to the pulpit, somebody yelled fire.

People fled, and seven died from being trampled, 28 critically injured. So when they took Spurgeon out, he saw this, got him home, and he went to bed. He was so devastated, he went to bed for a month. And eventually, you know, he started preaching again, but I think he never really got over it.

And they said he would go maybe a few months preaching, and then he'd be in bed with this depression for weeks. And, you know, he died morbidly obese, died very young. And his whole life was just one struggle after another, because he never fully, I think, grieved that loss. No one was there to help him. And I think there was tremendous shame on his part that here he was really the most famous person alive at that time, kind of like Billy Graham for us. And he couldn't beat this thing.

He would literally only be able to preach about eight or nine months a year. Yeah, and yeah, you just never hear that story. And I think it's important for people to hear for that purpose that depression can be something that we all encounter in this life.

Steve, let me take it a little more personally. I, you know, I grew up kind of rough, orphan kid, and I'm that guy that you kind of pull up yourself by the bootstraps. And if you've got an issue, you just push through that brick wall and you get it done. And I learned probably far too late, even in my own marriage, that not everybody's wired that way. And in fact, I mean, it's a little embarrassing to say this, but I remember Jean was in a tough situation.

She had lost a family member and she was in that grieving process. And I remember her turning to me because I think I was trying to help her quickly get through this, maybe because of my own uncomfortability. You know, when I look back on it, maybe I just don't do well in that.

And I don't want to be in a depressed mood because I'm fearful of it. And some personality types are like that, too. And I think I fall prey to that.

But I remember her looking at me and saying, you know what, Jim? Not everybody can do what you do. Not everybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get moving. And I'm one of those people. And that really. I mean, I was like, whoa. That was a wake up moment for me and my marriage to better understand who my wife is.

But it scared me. Yeah. Yeah.

And here's the thing. You both are doing great things. You persevering and moving on and her grieving. I think the plague in the Christian community a lot of times are ungrieved losses because we're uncomfortable when people are depressed or they're going through grief. And we say really stupid things. You know, Jeremiah 6 14 says they treat the deep mortal wounds of my people with superficial treatments. And we're still doing that.

I mean, Jeremiah was talking about that. And so what she did is she did what she had to do. And it's sad that, well, some people might not have been so willing to let her grieve like you once you got it, you know, you were fine with it. But they just demand that somebody get better or they are very hard on them when they don't.

Yeah. And caring for that person with depression is what we're talking about today. It it frankly, though, is no fun to be around a person who's depressed. We want to help you as somebody who might have a loved one or a close friend who's struggling with depression. That's what the conversation is about. And that's what this book is about. Understanding and loving a person with depression.

Look for your copy on our Web site or give us a call. Our numbers, 800 the letter A in the word family. Steven, speaking with and counseling thousands of Christians dealing with depression, you've identified some common fears or concerns that they have.

And what are they? Well, they don't want to be shamed. And they have heard talk when other people have gotten sick or sunk down into depression that they have been shamed. So that's shaming on shaming.

Yeah, it is. And then shunned, you know, that people are distancing from them and they feel like outcasts because they're made outcasts. And the other thing that I think is so damaging, which is kind of the reverse, is if we enable the depression, if we don't try to help, but we just let them continue to stay in that depressed state when they're not going to wake up one day and say, you know, I think I'm going to get better once they're so far down. And you could be the one who comes to them and says, I love you. I care about you. I don't care what these other people think.

I'm here for you. And versus thinking that I've got to come up with some scripture, I've got to say something that's going to make it all better. I think one of the worst things I ever heard was all you have to do.

There is no all you have to do. There are a lot of things. We need community. We need to feel like we still belong. And so rather than make a person an outcast, you need to help them feel like they do belong. And we need comfort when we are depressed. So we need to try to find what is it that could comfort them and support them. And the other thing is we need a little bit of counseling and to try to help them find somebody that could help them and to get over this medication issue. It's a big issue in the Christian community about medication.

Yeah. And why is that? Well, because I think they think that the medication that's given to a depressed person makes them high or something like that.

I don't know. It kills the pain, but it's totally different. It just helps with the brain chemistry. It's a different kind of medication. And I had a guy in my office say the medication I used to preach against is the medication that enables me to preach now because he went into a deep, deep depression. Now, we don't want people on medication that they don't need, but you also don't want to be the person that's depriving them of something that Christian psychiatrists who believe in Jesus, who went to medical school for nine years, believes this is the path to getting better is an antidepressant or something like that. Yeah.

And I so appreciate that. We've tried to take that position that if you go to the doctor because you have appendicitis, you're not going to say, well, I don't need a doctor to operate. I mean, you're going to say, help me or I'll die. And with depression, I think we often need to see that as a brain chemistry issue, that medication, hopefully for a short period of time. No, you need to get you through. Yeah. You need to treat your brain like an organ, right? Not like your spirit.

It's not that. Let me ask you if someone hasn't experienced clinical depression and we're touching on this, but let me focus it into a question. It's impossible to know what our loved one or friend is going through because we're not in their shoes. And how do we better empathize with what they're going through? And then you've touched on some of those harmful mistakes. But what are some of those additional common mistakes that we might say in addition to all you got to do and fill in the blank?

What are some other things we should not do? Well, if you've never experienced this, you know, I say it's kind of like trying to climb a mountain in the dark. And there are thousands of gallons of molasses coming down toward you and you just can't make progress. It's impossible. It's impossible to do it. And then so you don't want to invite somebody to do the impossible. You literally, you know, if you could make yourself better, you would. And so it's really important that even if you don't have any idea how this could feel, that you validate their feelings.

Ask them, how does it feel? And is this a good day or is this a bad day is a really great question because they might say, oh, this is a pretty good day. And when people start getting better, they start having more good days than bad days. But just hey, is this a good day or a bad day? And to let them know, I am here for you.

If if you want to go to a support group meeting, I'll go to that meeting with you versus you don't need that. Or this isn't really that bad or anybody. Look at all the things you had to be grateful for. Well, they know what they have to be grateful for. But their brain is so confused and so foggy that they can't translate that into something that would be healing or have some kind of positive impact on.

Steve, let me ask you, in terms of, you know, the spousal relationship, I think we've touched on that. I would think and you look at the studies today, a lot of teenagers are struggling. Yeah. And, you know, we're coming out of the covid environment. We've had, you know, a year, year and a half of tough realities related to that school shutdowns, those kinds of things. So social normalcy is disrupted. And I'm thinking of those teenagers that have really struggled. And let's speak more specifically to that as parents who have concerns about their kids, their grades aren't doing well, they're isolated.

What are some things we need to be aware of? And then how can we help and be more productive rather than get your homework done? Well, I had a call from a mom and I started to work with her. The son went off to college, came back, couldn't function, very bright kid, star athlete, didn't even exercise anymore, went to his room. He was whenever his his buddy would give him marijuana, which was frequently she knew he was smoking it and she was asking about treatment for the marijuana. And I said, you know, I'm usually right there with you on the marijuana thing. We need to get that taken care of. But what you're saying is it sounds like he's depressed and he's treating it.

He's medicating it with marijuana. And that was absolutely the case. So when you see your kids have a radical change in appearance, you need to take note of that. And then when you add to that, they're not engaging with their friends personally or they're not their grades are falling out.

You'll you see these things and you rather than think they have a bad attitude or they're not motivated. It'd be great if you ask yourself, do I think that might be depression? And if so, what am I going to do to get them help? And it would be great to find a counselor that really specializes in adolescent care. Over half of depressed people obtain that in their teens and 75 percent are depressed by the time they're 24. So it does come into your life very early, but it's hard for people to recognize it.

Steve, at this point, let me just ask kind of a related question. A friend said that her daughter, her middle school daughter, seems to be depressed. And, you know, given all the circumstances and all the challenges going on, how do we know if our kids are just struggling to make sense out of a chaotic world and they're dealing with isolation? How do we know if it's just stuff that we can maybe step in and offer some encouragement? Or it's something more serious where we actually do have to seek out some professional help?

I think the most powerful thing are the eyeballs sitting down regular basis. If you see some problem, just saying, you know, I need to take a little more eyeball to eyeball time with this child, and where they feel safe to share what's really going on. And, you know, no points off if they're just kind of struggling, but they end up with six sessions with a counselor who specializes in adolescence. I mean, it can change their whole life if they uncover a few things. I know a family that one of the kids was ready to desert the family and never come home again. And they had a family session set up with a therapist, and this kid said everything that he had never said about that family before. And it just, it's resolved so much that he didn't abandon the family and he stayed with them.

So you never know how powerful something can be when it's handled well by a professional versus an amateur or somebody that has good intentions but not very good experience. Yeah, and in this case the mom said one of the things that they tried doing was shutting off the phones earlier and doing some family game times. And she said that's been helping kind of pull that child out of her shell, if you will. Yeah, and of course we could do a whole show on the damage of too much screen time, too much disconnected time.

But I'll tell you, this past year has been really tough on our kids, as you were saying. And if they are depressed, help them with that, talk with them, spend time with them. You complain about them being on screens, then you be the option to the screen.

Right, and take some creativity. Steve, I'm looking at that metaphor in my mind of the drowning person and the person comes along to save them. And sometimes that person coming to save the drowning person drowns themselves because of the chaotic nature of the moment.

And the person drowning will grab them and actually take them down with them. And I think it serves as an illustration in this regard. How do we establish boundaries so that we ourselves don't get taken down? I'm thinking of a scenario where you might have an elderly parent who is suffering from depression and they're calling on you consistently, leaning on you in the latter years of their lives and they need to depend on you.

And some people can set boundaries and others can't. And then you have spousal debate about the problems that your wife's into and the fact that her mom is running her life. And you get the scenario. But it is that drowning effect that dependent, depressed family member is taking you down with them. Well, I think a caregiver should realize that most caregivers get angry and frustrated with the person that they're trying to care for and that they love. That that's kind of a natural result.

It's a horrible result, but it's common. And so if you're not getting support as you're supporting someone else, then you're probably going to be pretty miserable. And your husband or wife is going to be miserable with you because you're taking all that home. So I just try to tell people, look, that frustration, that anger, that bitterness, that's normal. You can't change the situation and it's getting worse. So get with a caregiver's group, a support group, or get help yourself or sit down with your pastor or get in a men's Bible study, women's Bible study. But you've got to fill that tank back up because helping, especially a depressed person, really does drain that tank that all of us have.

Yeah. Steve, we've got to get to that practical area of the program. There are some listening who are struggling with depression themselves. You suggest three forms of surrender to get the needed help. What are those three areas of surrender that a person needs to go after? Well, first you have to surrender the problem. You have to say, okay, in and of myself, I don't have what it takes to fix this, myself, or if somebody in your family is depressed, I don't have what it takes to fix them. So I need to surrender that problem. And then the second thing is I need to surrender all of who I am to God.

I need to say, this is me. Now I'm going to start going on your path and I'm going to follow your guidance, not my own thinking. The Bible is so clear, lean not on your own understanding. And then I think you have to also surrender to some people who have a God-given gift to help other people. That you're willing to take some advice, take some direction, not from everybody, but somebody that knows what they're doing. And if I can surrender at those three levels, there's a good chance that I'm going to find a path out of this and not have to go back into it.

But you really have to be willing to give up home remedies, all the things you've tried, and have this attitude of humble surrender. Steve, we're right at the end and I'm thinking of a step that a person who has recognized someone within their sphere of influence is not doing well. What is the first thing they should do if this is a wake-up call for them? And they know whether it's their spouse, their teenager, their elderly parent, whomever that person is that's suffering from depression. What is that first step that they can take?

This is the aha moment. Well, I think you really have to care about that person if you're going to have any kind of impact. And then I think the first thing is to be present with them. Not lecture, no quick fix, instant solution, but you be present. And then the next thing is to ask them about themselves. How are you feeling?

What are you going through? And be willing to listen and validate those feelings. Now, now you have a connection that might make all the difference in the world. And when you say, hey, why don't we do this together? Let me go with you to this. You've got some real great potential that they're going to do it with you. But if you just walk in and say, hey, I think you ought to go get some help from counseling, call this number, may not go well.

Yeah. Steve, this has been so good. And I hope it is the help that a person needs not only to identify potential depression in their own lives, but more to your book, Understanding and Loving a Person with Depression. It equips the people around that individual to be that ladder out that they will need.

In addition, obviously, to the work that the Lord will do in their lives. This is really good. Thanks for being with us and talking about this difficult subject. Thanks for having me.

Yeah. And let me turn to you, the listener. If you're in that spot and someone in your life is suffering from depression, we want to be there for you. Obviously, we want to be there for them. But let's get this resource into your hands. If you can send a gift of any amount to focus, we'll send you a copy of Steve's book, Understanding and Loving a Person with Depression, as our way of saying thank you for joining us in the ministry.

If you can't afford it, this is such an important topic. We will get you the resource and trust others will take care of the cost of that. But it's about ministry and we will get that done. In addition to that, we have Caring Christian Counselors who can help you in that initial discussion. Call us.

Tap us. We're here for that reason. Donors have supported us to do that. So look to us as a resource center in that way as well.

Yeah. Schedule a consultation with one of those Christian counselors. And as Jim said, donate as you can, please. And when you do, you're giving real families real hope.

And be sure to get a copy of this great book, Understanding and Loving a Person with Depression, by Stephen Arterburn and the late Dr. Brenda Hunter. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family. We're stopped by the episode notes for further details. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we hear from Kathy Lipp next time about bringing purpose and power to your prayer life. And we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. I was convinced that nothing could change what was going on in our marriage and I didn't want to try anymore. But my commitment to God helped me try one more time. We went to a Hope Restored marriage intensive and it was life changing. The counselors created the safest environment we could imagine. So that let us really talk. We're on a much different course now and I believe we received a miracle that week. Receive your free consultation at
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-22 01:40:58 / 2023-11-22 01:52:29 / 12

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