While listening to the radio on my drive home Tuesday, I heard the DJ pose this question, “If God would spontaneously heal just one illness or disease, which one would you pick?" A woman quickly called in. She said she would choose the illness of depression to be eradicated. She went on to explain that this condition is difficult to understand since it doesn't have any obvious outward symptoms. She shared that many people mistakenly think depression is a choice and can be conquered simply by thinking positively. As she spoke, she sounded discouraged and exhausted. I wondered if she was currently battling with the illness. The radio talk show host seemed surprised. I suspected he expected a more typical answer, like cancer or heart disease.
Depression, however, is a serious illness. It comes with catastrophic ramifications, such as higher rates of death, loss of productivity in the workplace, increased medical costs, marital stress, and a negative impact on family members, including children’s development. National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that the workplace annually loses over $34 billion in direct and indirect costs. Suicide is currently the eleventh leading cause of death in the US. Depression has definite effects on our society.
As Tuesday’s radio caller mentioned, there is a common myth that people chose to be depressed. Depression, however, is not due to having a bad day. It isn't caused by being blue or moody and doesn't respond to positive thinking. It is a real medical condition with common occurring symptoms.
Although the etiology of depression is still not completely understood, several common causes have been found to play a role. A person’s biology, genetics, gender, age, health condition, history of traumatic events, current level of stress, and use of medication or illegal substances can have an impact. Women are more vulnerable to depression and are twice as likely as men to suffer with this condition. The elderly are also more at risk. Depression runs in families. Individuals with alcohol or substance abuse problems frequently struggle with depression. Those with chronic physical conditions have higher rates of depression. And, people with a history of child abuse seem to be more vulnerable to this illness.
I too was surprised by the answer to Tuesday’s radio host's question. But, I was very thankful that the brave caller was able to share her painful insights and her wish for universal healing of depression.
In the next article we will explore how depression strikes people at different times of life and in different ways by looking at the five main types of depression.