2003-12-03 / Religion

HELPING THE DEPRESSED

Dear Friends:

Depression is a debilitating disease and suffering that is growing rapidly. Just last week the Holy Father noted that "the spread of depression has become worrying." Those who try to help the depressed and their family members know just what a daunting task it is. In this parish and every parish there are numbers of people who are very unhappy with life and for whom the future holds little in store. These are the clinically depressed and are afflicted with sadness and worry far beyond that of other people. This week I want to focus on dealing with the depressed from the point of view of a Christian approach.

Every person who has this illness is Christ in disguise. He or she feels absolutely terrible and wonders what is happening. This person, above all else, deserves the kindness and compassion of Christ. How is it that things are coming apart in life and there is little if any joy or happiness left? When a person shows signs such as these, a professional should be consulted immediately. There should be no shame or hesitancy in admitting the problem. The encouraging news is that many times medication and counseling can and do work wonders. Therefore, one of the most loving and intelligent things that you can do is persuade the suffering person to seek professional help immediately. And you can and must avoid saying things like: "Snap out of it." If they could, they would.. Genuine depression is very far from being a little down or in a mood.

Pope John Paul II has a number of great suggestions to help the depressed person spiritually. He says that those who care for the depressed, "must help them to rediscover their self-esteem, confidence in their own capability, interest in the future, desire to five " He indicates that the depressed must feel the love and tenderness of the community and that they must be understood and supported. When you and I make genuine efforts to listen to and support the depressed, we are reaching out to Christ Himself It may take a great deal of our time and the effort may not immediately seem to be working, but we can’t give up at all. We have to keep at it with Christian hope and perseverance.

Gently and with confidence in the power of Christ that is so available in prayer and in the sacraments, we should encourage prayer before the Holy Eucharist, recitation of the Rosary and praying of the Psalms. We can even share with them in these devotional practices and lead them along. It can be terribly difficult to pray when you are so low in your life; the supportive help of a friend or family member can be of immeasurable help.

Most, if not all of us, can recall when we had problems or sadness in our own lives and were helped by someone who took a personal interest in us. Every time we try to aid those afflicted with depression we do the work of Christ. It is important to use both the professional help that is so readily available and the spiritual means as well to achieve peace of soul.

In Jesus and Mary,

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