One can have faith but not be immune to depression. Faith is no cure, not even a consolation. Yet ‘poor theology’ leads many to misunderstand, even condemn, the sufferer… and thereby only make the condition worse.
The Rev Giles Fraser is a vicar in south-east London, and well-known to Radio 4 listeners – Thought for the Day, The Moral Maze – yet admits to serious bouts of depression.
Marie Lewis was a mental health nurse who, 20 years ago, endured what she calls ‘the hell’ of depression through two pregnancies.
Dr Richard Day is a psychiatrist and member of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who says that either drugs or counselling can help, but in the first instance one has to confide in somebody one trusts.
In a discussion on the relationship between Faith and Depression, chaired by broadcaster and journalist Mark Dowd, Giles says that depression is too often ignored in the Church, particularly where ‘the joy of the gospel’ is paramount, and because one can be active while depressed – holding down a job, the life and soul of a party, not necessarily in bed all day – one can hide the uncomfortable truths of loneliness, solitariness, unhappiness. Marie found no help in her evangelical church, where members not only looked for bizarre reasons for her depression – demon-oppression, disobedience, inter-generational sin, even feminism – but ignored the conflicts it posed, and didn’t visit her when in greatest need. Latterly, convinced intellectually and emotionally of God’s existence, she has moved to a more liberated and liberal church.
Richard argues that all this proves the existence of ‘too much poor theology’.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this programme, which opens a Things Unseen season on mental health, and would like to talk to somebody you can trust, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. Information on where to seek help is also available from Mind through the charity’s Infoline: 0300 123 3393 (text 86463).
This podcast won a Jerusalem Award in the Digital Audio category in October 2015.