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My Depression Is Not Wasted

What Gillian Marchenko learned when mental illness mixed with ministry

Then I recommend finding a therapist and a psychiatrist who can come up with a treatment plan. I also recommend that women find a couple of trusted individuals with whom they can talk to for support and prayer. Female leaders don't have to be stronger than anyone else. Mental illness isn't something to hide away out of shame. In fact, hiding and isolation can make the disease more severe. If a person breaks her arm, she goes to the doctor. Likewise, if a person is depressed, she needs to see a doctor. Depression is an illness. With time, God may prompt a leader to share her story publicly or he may not. It is up to him.

How might those of us in the church minister to Christian leaders who are depressed?

Don't count them out. Although they may need a sabbatical, they should not be disqualified. Assist leaders in finding help and continue to love and support them in the battle. Prayer is vital. Pointing them toward Christ is a must. But also, referrals to trusted therapists and psychiatrists is helpful. Organizations like Grace Alliance and Fresh Hope provide up-to-date information, support, and training for churches. Other ideas include asking about people's welfare, preaching from the pulpit against the stigma of depression and mental illness, and encouraging people who struggle to get more involved in church instead of isolating themselves. It's simple: don't give up on people.

How can we minister to the families of leaders who are depressed?

Depression is a family illness. Spouses, children, friends, and extended family all need support when a loved one is struggling. Homes are disrupted. There are no absolutes or secure daily routines. If the church is aware of a particularly difficult episode, bring meals. Offer to take the kids out for a Saturday afternoon, or help with basic things like drop off and pick up from school.

Here's a word of caution, though. Don't say, “Let us know what we can do to help.” Struggling families won't reach out. Instead, call and say, “If you don't have plans on Saturday, we’re taking the kids. We'll be there at 11:00 A.M.” Don't put the ball in a suffering person's court. Minister without invitation and before the family is desperately crying for help. And be on the lookout for caregiver burnout. If the family stops attending church, or appears weary and withdrawn, reach out. A lot of times when asked, a family says no to help. Help anyway.

May26, 2016 at 8:00 AM

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