“When I went through depression several years ago, I felt like many in the church [seemed to think] I needed to pull myself up by my bootstraps,” Simon Bekkering said. “I didn’t have the energy, I needed help. I felt the stigma of, ‘If you are a Christian then how can you be depressed?’”
A teenage girl told her mom, “The church, friends, and family don’t do depression.”
Those kinds of reactions led First Christian Reformed Church in Taber, Alta., to host a workshop led by Kirsten Ferguson, a social worker and counselor from Lethbridge, to help people learn how to help those with depression.
On January 30, about 60 people from the congregation and surrounding community listened as Ferguson explained various types of depression and explained that a professional may be needed to make a proper diagnosis. One man learned that moving into a new home with less sunlight had caused him to suffer from depression. “I didn’t share with anyone at first that I was depressed, because of the stigma,” he said. “When I discovered the reason for it, I learned others also suffer [from] seasonal depression.”
Ferguson noted things that people can do to help deal with depression. “Taking medication as prescribed and being monitored by your doctor is a first step,” she said. Healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep habits were also on the list. “Spending time in nature being exposed to sunlight and green space is healing,” she added.
Learning how to deal with negative thought patterns and strong supportive relationships go hand in hand with good mental health. Ferguson noted that when relationships are absent or abusive, depression is a common outcome. She explained how trauma affects our brains and leaves us vulnerable to depression.
Attendees Monica Loewen and Ruth Keilstra said, “We are so impressed with how many have come to the workshop! It was so helpful to see the different treatment models. We need to see the whole person, not just one aspect, not just meds. This is an important conversation that has to be had; [it] needs to be the beginning of more.”
Others expressed joy in finally talking about what they have dealt with for many years silently and alone. One woman said she found comfort in hearing about how issues from childhood can have negative effects in adulthood, as she had experienced. With help she moved forward several years ago to a healthy view of herself. “Today, being here with so many others who understand depression personally, was an encouraging day!”