Depressed Parents, Depressed Kids
“It’s a fallen world.” How often we find ourselves saying that! But it’s true that every person will have times of disappointment, loss, trials, or failure – it comes with being human. The question for each of us is, “How do I deal with this?” And sometimes, we may find ourselves in a dark place emotionally and spiritually. What should we do about that?
1. Understand it.
Depression is a real thing which is more than just “feeling blue.” It has a serious physical side, both in cause and effect, as it deals with our brain chemistry. It’s not proof of spiritual weakness or flawed character!
Many heroes of the faith have grappled with depression – Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon, for example. Depression can be a trial of its own, or the result of some other cause.
2. There may be a spiritual component, but the physical often makes it persistent.
God created us with bodies as well as spirits, and while we’re on earth we can’t completely separate the two. When our body is sick, it may be because of our actions or lifestyle, or it may not. You might have cancer because you smoke three packs a day, or you may have cancer because of a genetic condition you inherit. But whatever the cause, you may end up sick and have to deal with the sickness with or without root causes. Depression might be caused by sinful decisions, or it may be a result of illness or other disorder. Once it sets in, though, it’s hard or impossible to just “snap out of it” because our brain chemistry has gotten out of whack. Maybe we got depressed because of some outside cause, but we might stay depressed because now we feel hopeless.
3. There are practical things you can do for mild depression, without prescriptions
Sometimes we need to change our activities to change our feelings. If you’ve lost a job and have nowhere to be in the morning, don’t decide to sleep till noon and sit around in your bathrobe all day. Go ahead and get up, get dressed, and act purposeful; it actually does help! Often depression will make you feel like withdrawing from social contact; that may be the time you most need the interaction and encouragement of being around people. Start with your family and move on to your church — don’t forsake assembling together with other believers!
Some kinds of depression are seasonal. We have a friend who grew up in cloudy, cold New England; she said, “I never knew you could be happy during the winter until we moved south!” Melanie felt truly oppressed when we lived through a California winter — in the Central Valley, where we lived, a heavy fog obscured the sky every day for weeks at a time, and only lifted a few feet during midday. Sunlight and vitamin D supplements can be an amazing help.
We found that we have better mood and better concentration when we take fish oil supplements. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, krill, and some nuts are concentrated in the brain, and you have to get them from your food or take supplements.
There is some research suggesting that an overgrowth of intestinal yeast can impact depression. The yeast blocks the places in the intestine where the body moderates serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone; you can sometimes improve things by taking a good probiotic supplement, which will compete with the yeast but not interfere with serotonin use.
St. John’s Wort also works on serotonin levels. It’s an over-the-counter supplement which has been used in Europe for many years, and has gained more acceptance and use in the United States in the past decade or so. You can buy it without a prescription, but it can have pretty strong effects. You may want to consult your doctor before starting this one!
4. Sometimes medical help is needed – and life saving
The Bible balances two facts – that the God who made our bodies is the One who ultimately heals our bodies, and at the same time, He gave us doctors and treatments which may be the way He does it. John Piper said, “I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing.” (link)
There are times when you can afford to experiment with alternative treatments for yourself – when the risk is low if they are ineffective. But if you are grappling with a crippling or self-destructive level of depression, it is time to seek professional help.
5. So be on the lookout, and know when you need help – or when a friend or loved one may need your help. You’ll be thankful later.
Hal and Melanie
You can hear more about this and about interacting with your kids about depression on episode 97 of our podcast, Making Biblical Family Life Practical – CLICK HERE TO LISTEN IN!
DISCLAIMER: We are not medical professionals! This article is simply advice from our own experience and reading. Please take these suggestions as just that, suggestions, and consult your own doctors and counselors.
Are dealing with trials and temptations? Grappling with “hard times”? We’ve had our share, for certain, and learned some valuable lessons about how to manage the day-to-day life in the midst of sickness, unemployment, sorrow, and other challenges. We have a workshop called Just As I Am: Homeschooling Through Hard Times that would bless you, and we’d love to give you a copy for free if you sign up for our newsletter here: