Healing from Depression: A Toolbox of Help

Alan M. Hallene Jr., Ph.D. provides insight into suicide prevention and the battle with depression. Depression. It’s no one’s favorite subject, but one that touches nearly all of us directly or indirectly at some point. Statistics show that one out of three individuals battles this disease at any given time. Take a walk down the aisles of your grocery store, and realize that every third person you see may be fighting symptoms of clinical depression.

Depression can drag you down with questions, weariness, guilt, crises of faith and identity, fears of old stigmas, loss of lifestyle and relationships, and even put you at risk for suicide. I have struggled through depression several times, and in my recent book, The Hope of Heaven: God’s Eight Messages of Assurance to a Grieving Father (Thomas Nelson, March 2015), I share the story of my son Alex’s depression that led to his tragic death by suicide.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline states that each year, 37,000 suicides and hundreds of thousands of suicidal attempts impact millions of Americans. But there is good news: Depression is treatable, and suicide is preventable. You must first understand the issues surrounding depression to learn the tools of healing.

For starters, let’s review some common symptoms. They can include apathy, sadness or irritability, drug use, negativity, sleep changes, headaches or stomach aches, withdrawal from friends and family, and weight changes. If you suspect depression, watch carefully for suicidal tendencies.

Suicidal warning signs: • Mentions life being better without him/her • Interest in death • A sudden boost in mood (sometimes happens after the decision is made to end one’s life, but before a suicide attempt) • Saying goodbye • Getting affairs in order • Self-destructive habits • Preoccupation with pills or dangerous objects

Knowing the signs is important—but so is understanding what depression is not. Depression is not a form of weakness. In fact, living day in and day out with depression requires an enormous amount of fortitude. Depression also is not a result of insufficient faith. The psalmists poured out their despairs to the Lord and were not rejected for it:

• Psalm 9:9 (ESV): "The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble." • Psalm 94:19 (ESV): "When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." • Jesus himself promised, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, ESV)

Thirdly, depression is not shameful. Stressful lives, instability around the globe and environmental toxins work against your body 24/7.

Clinical depression is a medical illness that requires medical attention as much as a broken bone does. You can arm yourself with these strategies for recovering emotional health.

1. Professional help – Doctors and therapists are trained to recognize symptoms and can prescribe medication to reregulate seratonin levels and test for other health imbalances. 2. Encourage ongoing interaction – If someone you care about is depressed, remain present in his or her life through visits, texts, emails, phone calls and invitations to stay involved in normal life. 3. Exercise – Exercise is a natural mood-booster because it gets your body chemicals moving. Daily walks helped while I was recovering, and Alex took up swimming during the last year of his life, making me wonder if he was trying to boost his well-being. 4. Pray and study God’s promises – Romans 8:26 (ESV) states, Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. When you go to God with your desperation, He will reveal more of himself and draw you close. Psalms and Proverbs reminded me that I need God most of all. 5. Listen, and be safe for others – Listen and ask questions. Speak gently, but honestly about their need for help. Offer to find a doctor and make an appointment. Those simple acts may be just the relief they need.

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It is possible to weather depression with positivity and helpful tools. Keep going one more day, keep encouraging a loved one to do the same, and trust the Lord to reveal the light and hope at the end of depression.

Alan M. Hallene Jr. and Erin Keeley Marshall are the authors of Hope of Heaven: God’s Eight Messages of Assurance to a Grieving Father. For more information, visit www.HopeofHeavenBook.com.

Hope of Heaven cover Media Contact: Tiffany Sawyer, Publicist Tiffany.Sawyer@HarperCollins.com / (615) 902-2231