Depression & Suicide
By Dawn Laurie
1 March 2019
Have you ever wondered why we have such an epidemic of depression and suicide happening in our culture?
It is now common for the media to regularly feature articles concerning mental health.
Mental health organisations in our nation actively attempt to raise awareness and acceptance of mental health issues and meet the needs of those suffering in this way.
What has happened that we face this terrible situation daily? What is causing this? And how do we turn things around?
The epidemic of depression & suicide in New Zealand.
It seems that even though we in New Zealand live in a privileged society, with the greater majority of people in New Zealand being fed, housed and clothed and offered the opportunity for an education, employment and a optimistic future, we are still one of the nations of the world with the highest rate of suicide.
We have access to support of all kinds, and live in comparative safety, with low rates of corruption, clean water, unpolluted air, green spaces and a spectacular coastline. Yet we can struggle to see the richness of our lives, as compared to war-torn nations or those suffering from extreme poverty and starvation. The level of despair faced by many is real.
The ever elusive ‘solution’.
There are many seeking help, feeling depressed and hopeless, and describing their situations as holding no joy, having lost the ability to feel happy, despite their lives outwardly having the promise of fulfillment.
The 'solutions' this culture offers a person suffering in this way vary. A person seeking help for depression might typically be offered antidepressants, counselling, exercise, meditation and mindfulness. Or they might seek to self medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships or anything else that can be used to manage the deep shadows of this state of mind.
But the condition still pervades beyond these solutions.
The 'solutions' are not cures, but merely management of a pervading condition, which may or may not lift.
Anything used to treat the depression seems to never quite hit the mark, or make it successfully go away. Life is heavy. Time drags interminably and what used to be daily manageable, becomes seemingly impossible to accomplish. Self-esteem plummets and concentration lacks. Isolation from those around them is common. Sleep is either a welcome respite or elusive. Reckless behaviour can be a feature, despite the concern of those who care. Thoughts of self harm or suicide, in an effort to feel something other than this torment, can result.
This is because depression is an emotional and spiritual crisis. Other commentators call it an "existential awakening". A place where we seek out the deeper meaning of life.
The pit of despair.
The visual picture that is often used to describe this condition is a dark place where the person is alone and unable to escape the deep, persistent sadness that pervades their mind, their soul, their life and their spirit.
Words such as 'a pit', or the 'darkness', or in the words of Sir John Kirwan "...a black dog that follows you around", an inescapable place where nothing satisfies no matter what choices are made to cope, or how much effort is expended.
The hopelessness and darkness seem never ending and after a while, intolerable, even with caring support systems, love and a promising future ahead.
Others around them struggle to make sense of their situation and are often desperate to help to ease their despair, to no avail.
There seems to be no hope for them leaving this stuck place, even if they knew how.
For many, even though they don't enjoy that place, there is some comfort in staying there, rather than looking for a way out, since the safety of that place is preferable to what they perceive beyond that place.
They can usually see no way out.
You’re not alone.
The Bible describes this place as a pit or a well. Or a dark cave.
In the story of Joseph, his brothers, in their jealousy, threw him into a well and left him there to die. Then, seeing slave traders passing by, they sold him for money and he was freed from that place, only to become captive to the slave trade (Genesis 37:18-36).
In another account, this time for Elijah, a great man of God suffering from depression, Elijah ran in despair in an attempt to isolate himself, to die, rather than face death at the hands of a furious Queen Jezebel, after successfully killing her wicked priests.
1 Kings 19:4 says, "He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.'"
Other Bible figures that have despaired of life and contemplated suicide include Moses, Job, Judas, Samson, Saul and David.
David's cry in Psalm 143 is desperate. "Lord, come quickly and answer me, for my depression deepens and I'm about to give up. Don't leave me now or I'll die! Let the dawning day bring me revelation of your tender, unfailing love. Give me light for my path and teach me for I trust in you."
What has the Bible got to do with this?
As a Christian counsellor, I have seen many being able to escape this dark place quickly and painlessly, never to suffer in this way again.
Is this just dreaming?
Why, when the world offers so much in the way of science, medicine and other forms of healing should there be an answer that seems so easy?
I venture to suggest that it is because the escape is only really possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Because He who made us knows what is happening in our hearts and knows how to heal our condition and wants to do that because He loves us so much, just as a true loving Father would.
Hebrews 4:12 explains, "For the Word of God is living and active and full of power, making it operative energizing and effective. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit, the completeness of a person, and of both joints and marrow, both joints and marrow, the deepest parts of our nature, exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart."
And that healing is the presence of God Himself.
He is the one who promises that when we walk through the sunless valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for He will be with us to protect, guide, comfort and console us (Psalm 23:4).
He is the lamp that illumines and dispels our darkness (2 Samuel 22:29).
The problem for many of us is that we either don't know about this or we resist this answer.
Acts 7:51 says that we "are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit just as our fathers did."
And so our culture is actively rejecting the One source of healing that actually works and brings total healing from the distress and despair of depression.
After watching the Holy Spirit work in people's lives and hearts, in the counselling room, for over ten years, I want to explain how I have seen Him miraculously and effortlessly heal depression.
The issues He addresses for each one are...
- The sense of being alone.
- The sense of being in the dark.
- The sense of being stuck and hopeless, with no way out.
We are talking about the place in our spirit and soul that has gone into the darkness.
Out of the darkness.
When asked, on the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "Is it okay if we ask Jesus to show you where He is, in the darkness you are in?"
If the reply is "Yes", the person immediately becomes aware of the person of Jesus, in the place of their darkness.
They are usually surprised, but the Bible is clear in the comfort of the words of Jesus, "I will not leave you as orphans, comfortless, bereaved and helpless. I will come back to you," John 14:18.
I have come to recognise that He will do this for anyone, at any moment of their lives from conception to present day, and into the future.
It's just that we don't always have the spiritual eyes to seek this or to ask for Jesus to show Himself, in our darkness.
At this point, just as for Elijah and Joseph, the person realises that the truth is that, they are not actually alone.
They have Jesus with them, in their desperate place and their desperation eases.
Just as God shows Himself and rescues those suffering from depression in Biblical days, so He continues to do so now.
The hope that is found in Jesus.
Because Jesus is The Light of the World, the darkness the person was dwelling in is now not as dark.
He tells us in John 8:12, "I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life".
Many who confess to having faith in Jesus are still unaware of this and also suffer from depression, because they have not yet had a personal encounter with Jesus, in their darkness.
"For the Lord illumines and dispels my darkness. For by You I can run upon a troop; By my God, I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is blameless and perfect; the word of the Lord is tested. He is a shield to all those who take refuge and trust in Him. For who is God, besides the LORD? And who is a rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress; He sets the blameless in His way. He makes my feet like the doe's feet, firm and swift." (2 Samuel 22:29-34 - AMP)
We only have to ask.
Overcoming the pain & trauma in our lives.
How did we come to be here?
In the trauma moments of our lives, we use our own defence systems to protect ourselves, rather than the shield God offers, effectively and unknowingly locking ourselves into our darkness, in an effort to isolate ourselves from terrible happenings. We unconsciously lock ourselves (spirit and soul) away from pain, shame and danger, to escape the world.
Thankfully, we can never lock the presence of Jesus out.
In our fear and anxiety and pain, we are just unwilling to look up or into the darkness. Thankfully, the psalmist answers and understands our need for protection. "You are a shield for me, my glory and my honour and the One who lifts my head" (Psalm 3:3).
We don't need our own defence systems when we have the One who is able to save us from all danger and shield and protect us.
A fresh start.
At this stage, the spiritual picture has changed from the person being in total darkness, perceiving they are alone, to them being in the pit/well/room/cave/tunnel/desert with some light and the sense of Jesus being with them, obliterating their aloneness.
The Holy Spirit will prompt me to ask the person if they want Jesus to show them how to get out. This usually means facing their hesitancy or fear of what they unconsciously have run from.
At this point, the fears vary.
A fear of being exposed, of having to face unbearable pain or shame or torment or death or the future.
They are torn by their desire to be free from the trap and the need to face what is beyond the walls of their confinement.
The Holy Spirit will show them the way to leave and but there is still the decision for the person about whether, with Jesus' help, they want to leave
If there is hesitation, the Holy Spirit will help them quietly with their fears, showing them the truth of what will happen when they venture out.
The many reasons that existed for that person to not feel safe enough to leave the confined space are faced and answered with Jesus' comfort, wisdom and counsel. He gives courage, knowing they don't have to face their world alone and that the truth of what they will encounter is actually full of hope and light.
Most often, the new picture is one of a wide space filled with beauty and nature and sunshine, as Psalm 18:19 offers: "He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me because He was pleased with me and delighted in me." Or as in Psalm 31:8, "and you have not given me into the hand of the enemy: You have set my feet in a broad place."
They step out with the Lord who "I saw constantly before me: For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken from my state of security. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted exceedingly: Moreover my flesh also will live in hope (will encamp in anticipation of the resurrection); for You will not forsake me and abandon my soul to the realm of the dead, nor let your Holy One undergo decay after death. You have made known to me the ways of life: You will fill me, infusing my soul with joy with your presence" (Acts 2:25-28 - AMP).
In my observation, when they are able to see what life will hold, they feel safe enough to leave the confinement, feeling reassurance and hope from what Jesus has shown them.
On stepping out of this confinement of the soul, with Jesus beside them, the depression totally lifts forever.
I have often seen this happen in the space of a 90 minute session, and subsequent sessions are used to deal with discovering their true and designed identity and purpose in life.
An existential crisis?
Yes! But the pathway to life and freedom from depression forever.
And so why wouldn't we who are suffering take the strength, healing, hope and friendship Jesus offers, so that we may once again experience 'a joyful, cheerful heart' that 'brings healing to both body and soul' when we are 'the one whose heart is crushed and who struggles with sickness and depression." (Proverbs 17:22 - TPT).
About the author.
Dawn Laurie is a fully qualified counsellor and social worker (Dip. Tchg Dip. Csg. Full member NZCCA), who has been helping people overcome addiction, depression, grief, anger and anxiety for over ten years. She has been following Jesus since childhood, and has seen first-hand, both for herself and for others, the hope, love and power of the Mighty Counsellor who knows us all personally and cares and loves us unconditionally, desiring us to live in health and experience life to the fullest.